Wednesday, September 17, 2014
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Mitra family lives in Calcutta, India. Their home is situated near two large lakes and the lowland that separates them and where the children play. Next to the lowland are the high walls that separate the English country club from the native people, setting clear notice that the rich deserve the best while the poor are there to serve. The family has two sons. Subhash is the older, while Udayan is only fifteen months younger. The boys grow up almost as twins, never apart, sharing everything.
Both boys excel academically, but their interests diverge. Subhash, the steady one, concentrates on environmental science and moves to the United States for graduate degrees. Udayan, who is passionate and impulsive, falls in with the emerging Naxalite political movement, an Indian Communist party. He also marries without asking his parent's blessing, knowing that the studious Gauri would not be their choice. The government uses harsh measures to crush the Naxalite movement and Udayan is caught up in that retribution.
Subhash returns to India when his brother's tragedy occurs and returns to the United States with Gauri in tow. They live as husband and wife and soon parents until the child is a teenager when Gauri leaves to pursue her own interests. The book covers the lives of these individuals for the following decades, showing how youthful decisions have impact that last decades.
The Lowland is well regarded. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize of 2013 as well as being a National Book Award Finalist. It received awards from organizations such as the New York Times Book Review, NPR, Goodreads, Kirkus, Slate and Barnes and Nobles. Lahiri treads the path she has written about before, that of the Indian immigrant life in America, and how the family and its obligations are central in the Indian life. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.