Book review: Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland

I'm somewhat reticent to write book reviews for Nest & Launch. Book reviews can be boring -- like watching someone else's vacation slides or listening to your (darling) child recount, in detail, the antics involved in an hour long television show. 

However, I enjoyed Lahiri's novel so much, that I'm breaking my own rule. Also, this isn't so much of a review as it is a hearty recommendation. And don't worry, I'll keep it short. (Well, my version of short.)

First off, Lahiri is one of a handful of contemporary writers who I recommend without reservation. I read everything new she produces, and as of this novel . . . I've never been disappointed. 

Secondly, I'm fascinated by India and Indian culture and how Indian culture works to find a space in the United States -- all things Lahiri tackles with intellect and eloquence.

Third, Lahiri writes about family relationships. These aren't 'boy meets girl, there is an obstacle to overcome, boy marries girl' kinds of stories. Her narratives are messy and complicated and disappointing and joyful, which make them believable and touching and, in an odd way, hopeful. 

What I thoroughly enjoyed about The Lowland is that the story is told from a variety of points of view. The perspective changes from older brother to younger brother, to wife, to child, to mother-in-law, which gives this slowly rounded portrait of the characters and makes you empathize -- even with the crusty mother-in-law or the troubled wife.

I will warn you that (somewhat uncharacteristically) Lahiri has a penchant for wandering into philosophical reveries in this novel (one of the characters becomes a philosophy PhD), so this is not the type of book to rush through. Typically, I like to take a good novel and gulp it down, barely taking time to breathe. But The Lowland doesn't really allow for gulping. I read a few chapters at a time. Slowly. Waiting until I was thinking and wondering about the characters to pick it up again. It was a beautiful, literary read through an entire generation of sorrow and violence and love. 

I might start it again tomorrow.