The long- short stories by Lahiri takes us through the lives of thousands of Indians living abroad and in broader context it talks about the lives of Bengali families living in different parts of world. This book is divided into two parts. First part of the book is left untitled and the second part is titled as ‘Hema and Kaushik’. The book in total comprises of eight stories.
The first part has short stories with different characters in them whereas in the second part of the book we see that the stories are interlinked with the appearance of the same protagonist from the previous stories. The title of story takes us through the life of Roma, living in Seattle with her husband and son. Her father is half American half Indian especially with his growing gray hair and white skin. While taking us through the father’s character, Lahiri talks about the individualistic society wherein we see Roma’s father cooking his own meals, roams around the world alone and does not have much to take care of anything else except a suitcase.
The other story Hell-Heaven is in first-person and talks about the American way of life. It also takes us through the crush that narrator’s mother had on another Bengali man- much younger than herself and her husband.
The last three stories are about Hema and Kaushik, childhood acquaintances, who meet in future to be lovers. Once in a Lifetime is about Kaushik’s parents returning to America and then staying at Hema’s house.
Year’s End is about when Kaushik’s mother dies and he then learns about his step-mother and stepsisters. He tries hard to settle himself in the new family and somewhere also starts liking his stepsisters. But, one day he moves ahead, leaving the house.The book surely makes one think about those relatives and friends living away in some other country; those who would visit you once every three years; those who do not exist among you anymore and those who were left behind- into a different world.
The book can also be taken as a satire of our everlasting ideology that settling down in west can be so cool-and-hip and having a far better life ”there”. Another significant relevance I found in this book was with protagonist of Home and World by Rabindranath Tagore. When I was reading ‘hell-heaven’ I could sense so much same-like things between protagonists of this story. The love for music, poetry and the sense of coming out of a marrige bond.
The narrative technique Lahiri has used is breath-taking. With every story that ends there is an imaginative picture in your mind already about what has happened and what may come further. The language used is graceful and is easy to read and understand. One thing I liked the most was use of small, very small sentences. Though her writing style is simple she has used both metaphors and symbolism throughout the book.
The pleasure of reading Lahiri was commendable. for the first time i have read a book written by lahri and I am surely going to take up her other two books as well. For anybody who wants to look in the ‘hell-heaven’ of west, this book is recommended.
The title is taken from a quotation by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.
This books was sent to me by Publisher for an unbiased review. If you are an author or a Publisher please send an E mail to adityabhasin81 [at] [gmail] [.com]
About: Aditya Bhasin hails from India, Delhi-an avid reader, who enjoys his cup of tea over it, a racist in purest form as he hates chocolate and coffee. He does not like traveling much, but, if he gets an opportunity to travel he chooses to do that by a train instead of a car or a plane. He is an ambivert person and is happy that way.
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