Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
I first became aware of Jhumpa Lahiri when I read her story, "Sexy," in the New Yorker back in 1998. This incident also stands in my memory as the last time I enjoyed reading anything in the New Yorker.
"Sexy," the story of a young white woman's affair with a married Indian man, and what she realizes about it after she is forced into an unexpected day of babysitting is an excellent, perfectly written story, yet it is not the best one in this collection by a long shot. Other standouts include:
"A Temporary Matter," wherein a doomed couple share a few scheduled moments of perfect honesty during the last week of their marriage
"Interpreter of Maladies," wherein a wretched American family takes a trip to India and breaks an old man's heart
"This Blessed House," wherein a Hindu couple moves into a house where the previous owners have left behind a wild and ludicrous assortment of Christian icons
and most especially, "The Third and Final Continent," wherein we meet the book's only happy couple and a delightfully crazy old woman
Number of years I've been re-reading this book: 6
If you like...: books about the second generation immigrant experience (and Lahiri's novel The Namesake is another terrific one) or books about unhappy couples permeated with a certain sad sweetness, this book is for you.