Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Short Story Wednesday: Mrs. Sen's by Jhumpa Lahiri


"Mrs. Sen's"
from Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner Books, 1999)

This is one of my favorite stories in Interpreter of Maladies. Eliot has had two previous babysitters, one whom was fired and the other graduated from college. His mother reluctantly agrees to hire Mrs. Sen, who insists that she care for Eliot at her own home. Her husband teaches at a local university. Mrs. Sen is far from her home and family in India. She misses them terribly as she tries and adjust to her new home, which is very different from the one she left behind.

What I liked most about this story was the relationship between Eliot and Mrs. Sen. It was very understated. The story is told from the perspective of Eliot, and so it is his observations and interpretations of events that the reader is privy to. Eliot and Mrs. Sen are in similar situations, both alone and struggling to get by as best they can.
"My sister has had a baby girl. By the time I see her, depending if Mr. Sen gets his tenure, she will be three years old. Her own aunt will be a stranger. If we sit side by side on a train she will not know my face." She put away the letter, then placed a hand on Eliot's head. "Do you miss your mother, Eliot, these afternoons with me?" [pg 122]

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13 comments:

  1. I think I would be hard-pressed to pick my favorite story in this collection. They are all breath-taking, often in very subtle ways.

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  2. I liked this one so much too! I've already gone back and read several of them again, and this is one of them.

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  3. This is one of the stories in the collection that I remember only a little. I am going to have to do a reread of this book very soon, as I seem to be forgetting some crucial stories!

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  4. I don't read a lot of short stories, but I really want to read this collection.

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  5. I really need to get this book of short stories. The ones you have featured really sound good.

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  6. It's been a long time since I've read this book and I can't remember this story! Oh that's terrible. I do know that this book made me appreciate short stories a lot more. For a long time I used to say I didn't like them but this collection definitely changed my mind.

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  7. I have been reading short stories too. I will have to put this on my wish list as I always love stories set in India.

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  8. It's been quite awhile since I've read this collection but I remember Mrs. Sen. Many of the stories have stuck with me.

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  9. I love Lahiri, I love Mrs Sen's, I love your review and agree 100%. :)

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  10. Sandy - It's such a great collection, although there were definitely some stories I liked better than others.

    Christine - It's hard not to want to go back and reread some of them again. Lahiri is such a talented author, and it's such a gift to be able to write a short story so well, I think.

    Heather - I hope you enjoy them in the rereading as much as you did the first time!

    Kathy - I don't read a lot in the way of short stories either, to be honest, although I'm trying to remedy that.

    Kathleen - I do hope you enjoy it if you read it!

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  11. Iliana - With so many stories, I imagine it's easy to forget some of them. :-) Don't feel too badly. My appreciation for short stories definitely increased when I realized that I couldn't read them the same way I read a novel. It really makes a difference.

    Sari - I'd love to hear your thoughts on this collection, Sari!

    Teddy - So many of the stories are so good, aren't they?

    Susi - Thanks! I don't think this is a story I will soon forget. It really struck a chord with me.

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  12. I usually have a short story collection going at all times (read a story or two in-between books), but I don't have one at the moment. I have this collection, along with another of hers, but have only read one of the stories. Hopefully the short story bug will bite again soon.

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  13. Joy - My intention is always to have a short story collection going or at least read a short story in between novels, but I so rarely remember to do that. It's a good idea anyhow!

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