Book of the Month: October 2013


The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Fall is upon us and if we see in the changing leaves the “vivid hues of cayenne and turmeric and ginger pounded fresh every morning” it might just be because we are drenched in the prose of Jhumpa Lahiri’s long-awaited second novel, The Lowland, which debuted in September. One of America’s greatest contemporary authors, Lahiri’s previous works have brought to readers the complex, rich, mournful and eminently engaging lives of Indian immigrants whose struggles and passions are at once particular and universal. Her first book, Interpreter of Maladies, earned the young writer the Pulitzer Prize, her previous novel The Namesake was made into an award-winning film, and The Lowland has already been shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award Longlist. If these credentials aren’t enough, simply pick up The Lowland and you’ll be engrossed immediately in Lahiri’s restrained prose and intricate multi-perspective storytelling that follows a family through four generations and two continents as they attempt to come to terms with a tragedy.

The novel concerns two brothers, fiercely tied to each other in boyhood, though almost mirror images of one another in character and, as they grow, life paths. While one stays behind in India and joins a radical revolutionary movement, the other emigrates to Rhode Island to become an oceanographer, thus sealing the divide and perhaps bringing about the tragic event that will haunt the lives of all the characters throughout the rest of the story. As Lahiri writes of Subhash, the brother who leaves India, ““He had stepped out of it as he had stepped so many mornings out of dreams, its reality and its particular logic rendered meaningless in the light of day.” The Lowland is a perfect book for fall, full of the rich and varied hues of family secrets, politics, history, love and longing. Enjoy it with a cup of tea and a warm blanket.


From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary new novel, set in both India and America, that expands the scope and range of one of our most dazzling storytellers: a tale of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death.

Born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up.  But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. It is the 1960s, and Udayan — charismatic and impulsive — finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother’s political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family’s home, he goes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind — including those seared in the heart of his brother’s wife.

Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity. It is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.


Jhumpa Lahiri was born in London and raised in Rhode Island. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and author of two previous books. Her debut collection of stories, Interpreter of Maladies, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award and The New Yorker Debut of the Year. Her novel The Namesake was a New York Times Notable Book, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist and was selected as one of the best books of the year by USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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