Reviewed by Renée Bosman, Reference Librarian for Government and Public Affairs and Reference Collection Coordinator
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories is exquisitely well-crafted and worth a read, even if you tend to shy away from short stories. Several stories do touch upon the theme of cultural identity explored at length in her later novel The Namesake, but this often serves as background to their ordinary human trials; miscarriage, marital tension, and loss are some of the issues faced by both her Indian and Indian-American characters.
There is a thread of unfulfillment that runs through these stories, whether it is Mrs. Das and her marriage in “Interpreter of Maladies” or young Eliot observing his lonely babysitter in “Mrs. Sen’s,” yet Lahiri avoids injecting their lives with pessimism. Instead, many of her characters display a resiliency to life’s everyday challenges that can be uplifting; one observes, “there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.” This sentiment beautifully describes Interpreter of Maladies – perhaps ordinary on the surface, but a work of extraordinary beauty.