Pick of the Week: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
Love, devotion, selfishness and rejection are the themes woven throughout Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri's family saga, The Lowland.
The two Mitra brothers, Subhash and Udayan, are close in birth and inseparable while growing up in Calcutta. Subhash, the older brother, is studious and dutiful to his parents. The younger brother, Udayan, is the family favorite, even though he is reckless and gets into trouble.
When Subhash decides to continue his scientific education in America, Udayan stays behind and gets involved in the political unrest tearing apart his homeland. Udayan falls in love with Gaura, who had been resigned to living a single life of solitude. When Udayan and Gaura marry against his parents' wishes, the couple still moves back into the family home, causing tension between Gaura and her new in-laws.
Udayan pretends to be a dutiful husband, son and teacher. But he secretly becomes more involved in the political rebellion, which costs him his life. Subhash, devastated by his brother's death, returns to Calcutta to find that Gaura keeps herself isolated in her room. When Subhash learns Gaura is pregnant, he convinces her to marry him and go to America to raise the child.
Can Gaura, who lost her one true love, ever feel love again? Can Subhash, always trying to do the right thing, ever find happiness? Can Gaura and Udayan's daughter ever be able to come to terms with her past?
Those are questions The Lowland unravels in powerful and heartbreaking writing. Lahiri's characters don't always behave the way I think they should, but contrary characters only add to the story. I also appreciated learning more about a turbulent time in India's history.