Picks and Pans Review: Strangers in a Strange Land

UPDATED 04/07/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/07/2008 at 01:00 AM EDT

UNACCUSTOMED EARTH
by Jhumpa Lahiri |

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People PICK

REVIEWED BY DANIELLE TRUSSONI

STORIES

A beautifully rendered collection, Earth explores the dilemmas faced by Bengali immigrants in the west, yet its appeal is universal. Lahiri takes the reader from Massachusetts to Italy to London to Thailand as her characters discover love, freedom and the heartbreak of leaving one family to create another. In the standout title story, a lawyer on maternity leave struggles with her mother's death and her own ambivalence toward motherhood. "Only Goodness," about the complexity of loving an addict, contains a darkness that proves the author capable of leaving her usual realm, quiet domestic tragedy, for rougher waters. Reading her stories is hypnotizing—like falling into a dream where colors are brighter, smells sharper and time moves more slowly than in real life.

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