Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Title: Interpreter of Maladies
Publication Info: Mariner Books (1999)
Previously read: The Namesake
Lahiri’s collection of short stories demonstrates that she is one fine writer. The stories – mainly set in the Cambridge/Boston area or in India – cover some common themes such as the meetings of peoples of different cultures, strained relationships, and children with a growing understanding of the adult world. The last theme is best demonstrated in “When Mr. Pirzada Came To Dine” told through a child’s perspective of her parents’ Pakistani dinner guest and how that leads to her coming to terms with sociopolitical realities. The first story “A Temporary Matter” ends on an act of cruelty that is a real kick in the gut. Indeed, many of these stories demonstrate the downside of human nature and so the reader shouldn’t read this for a pick-me-up. Yet there is unexpected joy as well as in the last story “The Third and Final Continent” about an Indian immigrant and the elderly woman who rents him a room which has a surprisingly upbeat ending.