Review: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

interpreter of maladiesFormat:  Audio CD
Genre:  Short Stories
ISBN:  9781565119321
Published:  1994 (book) / 2004 (audio)

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of cultures and generations. In “A Temporary Matter,” published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth, while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession.

Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love anything that is set entirely or partially in India, and this was no exception. Lahiri is a gifted writer, and she is good both as a novelist and a short story writer. In this collection, she very effectively told stories of misfits (or characters who felt like misfits), who through choices or reasons beyond their control, experienced profound sadness, loneliness or disappointment in their lives. Her title was well chosen as a result, and though it was the title of one story in the collection – a story of a man who interpreted the maladies of patients in a doctor’s office – it was appropriate on a larger scale as well, since Lahiri herself was “interpreting maladies” in a way.

My favorite story of the collection was the final story, entitled “The Third Continent.” This one, ironically, didn’t seem to be in the same vein of the others for two reasons: 1) it was less about the malady than about the loneliness of living in a place where you know no one, and 2) it has a happy ending. In some ways it doesn’t necessarily “fit” with the rest, as the tone throughout is entirely different from the rest of the collection, but for whatever reason Lahiri included it, and its placement at the end of the book is ideal.

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