Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Lowland

Cover image for The lowland : a novelThe Lowland
by Jhumpa Lahiri
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. 339 pages. Fiction

The lowland is a swampy area between two small lakes that flood during the monsoon season in a quite neighborhood in Calcutta where two brothers, two years apart, grow up as best friends. However, as the boys enter adulthood, their distinct personalities lead them on different paths; Udayan becomes deeply involved in a violent Maoist political movement, and secretly marries a girl of his own choosing. Meanwhile the older brother Subhash pursues a PhD in the United States. The brothers maintain a tenuous relationship via letters, but remain constantly in one another's thoughts. One day Subhash receives the news that Udayan has been killed by the police, and comes home to find his parents numb and grief stricken, and Udayan's widow pregnant and living as a servant in his childhood home. He rashly decides to marry his brother's widow to provide her a new life, and become a father to his niece.

Lahiri is a talented story teller, and weaves a heart wrenching story of a family that slowly unravels through a series of tragic events, and then with future generations begins to find some healing and redemption. The characters are complex and compelling--sometimes so relate-able and sometimes utterly baffling. As she slowly shifts between each perspective you build a deeper understanding of each person's choices, and find a degree of empathy for them. This is a character driven story that moves at a stoic pace over several decades. ZB

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