Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Interpreter of Maladies

Interpreter of Maladies
Jhumpa Lahiri
198 pages

As in most things in my life, I am currently a bit behind on my 75-book challenge for this year.  According to my Goodreads widget, I am exactly 8 books behind.  Last night, I sat and frowned at that number, trying to figure out how that could be possible.  I'm an English major; it's my job to read all day!

Then I realized it's probably because the classes I'm taking this year are mainly focusing on short stories.  This means I've started a lot of collections, read the few required stories, and moved on.  But not with this one.  I was originally assigned Interpreter of Maladies for an Asian-American Lit class, and literally could not put it down.  I actually read and reread stories before class (and I never reread just for class!) and then moved on to finish the collection on my own.  As you probably know by now, I'm a sucker for simply yet descriptive language, and that describes Lahiri to the letter.  All of her stories are jam-packed with multiple layers of meaning and motive, but she does this in the most minimal, uncluttered way possible.  I love knowing that every word she writes is not wasted, but rather pointed and intended to be considered carefully.

Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of short stories that all revolve around Indian or Indian-American characters.  A lot of the stories involve Indian-American couples or families that are struggling to find balance between assimilation and maintaining their ethnic heritage.  These are not particularly uplifting stories, but rather very honest narrations about the state of immigration and assimilation in American society.  I found it particularly interesting that, as an Indian-American herself, Lahiri does not shy away from criticizing her culture through her characters.  She boldly pokes at both American society and the individuals trying to find their niche in it.

In other words, if you enjoy books that make you think about the world you live in, or enjoy small moments of heartbreak, then this book is definitely something you should check out.

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