Once again, Jhumpha Lahiri has constructed another periscope into the world of Indian history, enabling an outsider like me a glimpse of what it is like to move from the congested, poverty-stricken lowlands of India to the blended and perhaps more bland culture of the West. This tale begins with 2 brothers, Subhash, who is older and cautious, and Udayan, who is youthful and restless and daring. Although they are extremely close and share almost everything as children, they grow up toward divergent paths. Subhash stays the course in academia, while Udayan becomes involved in the communist undercurrent that is taking place in India in the 1970’s. The story unfolds as their paths determine their respective fates, with, of course, a woman and then a child who are caught in the middle.
While this book is well-written, it did not really grab me until deeper in to the story. The characters are difficult to love. They are kept at an arm’s length and are not easily accessible. They are very complicated, though, and it is their depth that intrigued me and kept me with the story.
What I did love about this book is the history that is taught within its pages. I did not have any prior knowledge of the political landscape of India during the ’70’s and this was enlightening. It certainly presents a different perspective on the communism of Marx and Mao than I ever hear of as an American.
(I also have to admit that being from Rhode Island, it was really fun to read the many travels around some of my favorite territory — southern RI with the beaches and the marshes. It was the RI of the 1970’s which is the RI that I lived and even such details as a shopping trip to the Warwick Mall made me smile and remember the shopping outings of my youth.)
Once again, Lahiri has written a winner. Hope you all enjoy it too!