18 October, 2021

Fallback Fiction – The books we never, ever tire of reading

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Despite the Pulitzer Prize awarded her debut collection (in 2000), Jhumpa Lahiri’s father warned her that writing stories was “not something to count on.”

I first read “Interpreter of Maladies” in graduate school, studying these “quiet stories” — on Bengali Americans and assimilation into American life — for everything from character detail to the dramatic turn. Three years after grad school, I continue to admire what Lahiri’s stories have to teach, both about the craft of fiction and the lives of her characters. These realist narratives are elegantly constructed, the portrayals emotionally precise and full of lush detail, and I never tire of their depth, beauty and mystery. From the bereft couple in the elegiac “A Temporary Matter,” to the winsome portrait of an arranged marriage in “This Blessed House,” and the wonder of an unfamiliar place in “The Third and Final Continent,” these stories are as genuinely satisfying today as they were on that first read.

~Lauren Alwan

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