I went into this book not knowing what to expect, and I loved it. Jhumpa Lahiri creates timeless families that straddle the cultural divide between America and India. She captures the conflict of growing up as one tries to balance one's parent's wishes with the influence of one's heritage and the culture of one's surroundings.
Of the first part of the book, I loved "Unaccustomed Earth", "Hell-Heaven", and "Only Goodness." The other two stories were great, but those three are my favourite--particularly "Only Goodness," which resonates with me as an older sibling who is now watching his younger brother grow up (luckily not as an alcoholic--yet....). And that's the great thing about Lahiri's writing. There seems to be a number of authors, such as Yann Martell and Rohinton Mistry who can write stories involving Indian culture that speak to much more universal truths. This is not through any intrinsic value of Indian culture that makes it superior, but I think I'm falling in love with that setting. The themes these authors profess affect everyone, however, and that's why Lahiri's stories are so moving.
Part two consists of three stories involving a woman, Hema, and a man, Kaushik, both Bengalis. The first part is told from the viewpoint of Hema as a young girl, who becomes fascinated with Kaushik when his family stays with hers while moving back to America from India. In the second, Kaushik recounts his difficulty adjusting his father's remarriage several years after his mother's death from cancer. In the third story, Hema and Kaushik reunite for the first time in several decades, in Rome, where they rediscover each other. The ending is somewhat tragic, but at the same time it possesses a sense of stillness. These stories made me want to stop and appreciate each moment in life.
I found this book in the library, but now I'm buying a copy. I want it on my shelf.