Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Title: The Lowland
Publication Info: Knopf (2013)
Lahiri’s novel, like many of her works, deals with Indian expatriates assimilating to life in the United States and coming to terms with their past in India. The Lowland tells the story of two brothers Subhash and Udayan. While Subash leaves for America to study in Rhode Island, Udayan is drawn to the Maoist Naxalite movement. The Lowland is also about a woman named Gauri who is connected to both brothers.
A big spoiler here, but after Udayan is killed by the police, Subhash marries the pregnant Gauri and takes her to Rhode Island to help her escape living with her oppressive in-laws. The marriage built on expediency cannot sustain and the desires of Subhash and Gauri to pursue their own goals and carry on in their lives with the memory of Udayan drive the conflict of the narrative. It is in many ways a quiet story with a lot of the passions tempered under placid exteriors and one that offers a sympathetic but not nonjudgmental look at each of the characters.
This week’s song “Don’t Wait,” is by Rhode Island-born Stockholm-raised sing Mapei (and who can resist a Rhode Island/Sweden connection). I learned of the song through NPR’s All Song’s Considered. Mapei describes her music as “21st-century gospel or doo-wop.”
Today I took my toddler son Peter on a day trip to Providence, RI. The main appeal of the outing was for Peter to finally get a chance to ride the double-decker commuter rail trains but I’ve been wanting to explore Providence for some time. Despite living a combined 27-years in the neighboring states of Connecticut and Massachusetts I’ve not given much attention to Rhode Island. I’ve driven through Providence past the giant termite, I went to a basketball camp at Providence College 20 years ago when I was in high school, I’ve been to a couple of Providence Bruins games, and … and that’s about it.
The Providence railroad station is centrally located right next to the Rhode Island State House. For the smallest state, Rhode Island really has an enormous capitol complete with gleaming white marble, neoclassical facades, and a looming hilltop presence. I didn’t have any destination in mind, just wanted to get out and explore. Peter & I strolled through Waterplace Park an attractive urban development of recent vintage which apparently replaced railroad tracks that once covered the river. Then we visited City Hall Park where Peter chased after many, many pigeons.
While I would be content to study the attractive architecture of Providence, Peter wanted a playground and not being able to find one, we made our way to the Providence Children’s Museum. The museum is located in the Jewelery District which actually looked like a district of unoccupied industrial buildings which was a little creepy. The area around the museum was friendly and the museum itself was great – smaller but also less intimidating than the Boston Children’s Museum. On our way back to the railroad station we walked through another part of downtown. It feels someone how more urban than Boston and very different architecturally. I will have to return to explore more when my attention is not so focused on a toddler.