Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Short Story Wednesday: The Third and Final Continent by Jhumpa Lahiri

"The Third and Final Continent"
from Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (Mariner Books, 1999)

This story really touched me. I even cried. A 36-year-old man leaves his home and family in Calcutta to strike out on his own. He travels to London where he earns his way until offered a respectable job at an American university. Before moving to the U.S., arrangements are made for him to marry a woman he does not know. While setting up residence in the U.S. and waiting for his wife's green card to come through, he rents a room from an elderly woman. While the two never really grow close, she makes an impression on him that will last him a lifetime.

Jhumpa Lahiri has again created characters who are very real and easy to relate to. She captures well the experience of an immigrant, the loneliness and the need for adjustment. I imagine it was the most difficult for Mala, the narrator's wife, who left everything she knew in India to come to the U.S. to be with a husband she barely knew.

The author is often very subtle in addressing certain aspects and feelings in the stories that make up Interpreter of Maladies, and yet I always come away with a clear impression of just what that might be.
Within days it became our routine. In the mornings when I left for the library Mrs. Croft was either hidden away in her bedroom, on the other side of the staircase, or she was sitting on the bench, oblivious to my presence, listening to the news or classical music on the radio. But each evening when I returned the same thing happened: she slapped the bench, ordered me to sit down, declared that there was a flag on the moon, and declared that it was splendid. I said it was splendid, too, and then we sat in silence. [pg 183]

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  1. That's a touching story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book with us, Wendy! :)

  2. I'm not a big short story reader but this collection sounds like something I might try.

    I also read your review of The Nobodies Album and appreciate your honesty. At first it sounded like a cool mystery but I'm not sure I'd like the way it's written, either. Sounds kind of confusing!

  3. I thought this story was one of the standouts in that collection.

  4. Nice review
    I will have to find this book. I loved The Namesake and I am sure I will like this one too.

  5. I've got this book of short stories on my TBR list. I soooo need at least two of me so I can read more!

  6. This was typical Jhumpa Lahiri - all the characters were so very real!

  7. If I recall correctly, this was my favorite story in the whole book. It was the perfect way to bring the book to a close as well.


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