Quick Review A collection of eight short stories exploring the meaning of disappointment and unfulfilled expectations.
I had never read anything by Jhumpa Lahiri, so I was excited to experience her writing for the first time. She did not disappoint. Lahiri explores the meaning of disappointment and the feeling of unfulfilled expectations. In most of the stories, the hopes and expectations of the characters are met in a drastically different way than they hope; driving home the message that life gives us what we want, it may not be how we want. Lahiri shows the build up, the enjoyment of living in a world filled with expectation, the realisation, and the mourning period when the inevitability of life is so painfully tangible.
The following eight short stories are in the order they appear in the book. They are each around twenty pages in length, give or take a few.
A Temporary Matter
Shukumar and Shoba were both born in the US. They are of Indian heritage; unlike Shoba, Shukumar does not have childhood memories of visits to India. They are going through a difficult time in their marriage after the stillbirth of their first child because the pain has become a barrier dividing them instead of bringing them together. They reconnect during an hourly power outtage every night for a week.
When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine
A young girl and her family open their home to Mr. Pirzada, a Bengali man working on his degree in the US while separated from his family. The girl is torn between feeling like an outsider in her own home and excitement for having a new person visit every evening. She is also beginning to understand the difference between her family’s culture and that of the one she is surrounded by.
Interpreter of Maladies
Mr. Kapasi is a driver for tourists on the weekend, but during the week he works as an interpreter for a doctor.. He is driving a young family and developes a small crush on the wife. As they begin to talk, he realizes she is just as flawed as everyone else in the world and not a perfect creature.
A young, career woman, Miranda, began an affair with an older married, Indian man, Dev, as she listens to her coworker, Laxmi, console a cousin whose husband is having an affair. To keep her affair alive, she spends money on a beautiful dress and lingerie hoping to wear it for Dev one day. Miranda ends up babysitting for the son of Laxmi’s cousin, who is aware of the affair his father had. Through an afternoon spent with a young boy, she becomes aware of the consequences her situation can have.
Mrs. Sen watches Eliot after school, as she is trying to learn how to drive a car. Mrs. Sen is learning to drive and function in a new society. Mrs. Sen hates being far away from her home in India where she has whole fish and independence without a car. She has everything her family believes the could want like a rainbow of saris and a professional husband, but she misses the comfort of home.
This Blessed House
Twinkle and Sanjeev are newly weds in a house. Sanjeev isn’t sure he loves his wife but he’s irritated by her love of finding and keeping the Christian items left throughout the house by the previous owners. At their housewarming everyone is dazzled by Twinkle, and Sanjeev realizes he enjoys the status of his new, beautiful, young, charming wife.
The Treatment of Bibi Haldar
Bibi Haldar was plagued by an illness no one could diagnose or fix – which was probably epilepsy. She dreamt of having a husband to take care of. It was her only hope, and she couldn’t stop talking about it. After a particular episode, she was prescribed marriage to ease her symptoms, but no one would take her on as a wife because of her reputation as a lune. After a difficult few months of seclusion she was found pregnant. She never married, but, instead, had a son who she cared for without being plighted by another episode.
The Third and Final Continent
He was born in India, studied in London, and worked in Cambridge at MIT. His wife Mala joined him in the US having been married for six weeks but only spending five days together. They were strangers at the beginning of their journey, but looking back on their life in Cambridge they can’t imagine not knowing each other.
““I only spoil children who are incapable of spoiling.””
“… life, I realized, was being lived in Dacca first.”
“It means loving someone you don’t know.”
“He did not know if he loved her.”
“ She wanted to be spoken for, protected, placed on her path in life.”
Title: Interpreter of Maladies
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)