Jhumpa Lahiri is definitely one of my favorite authors and I never get tire of her meticulous detail that brings light to the magic, wonder, disappointment in daily life. The Lowland is a very interesting read. It shows how lives go on and on, unplanned, and people can hardly accomplish the things they were meant to. It is an account of how unpredictable people can be, and how unpredictable you can be in judging them.
It is the story of Subhash, Udayan, and Gauri. Running through decades and stretched over a vast expanse from West Bengal in India to Rhode Island in the United States, this is a heart wrenching tale of love, life, family, sacrifices and more.
Growing up in Calcutta, born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan are inseparable brothers, though different in temperament, the pair of brother appear to be mirror images of each other and frequently answer to each other’s name. That fundamental difference grows more pronounced as the young men go off to separate colleges, make different friends and develop radically different values. It is the 1960s, and Udayan–charismatic and impulsive–finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a revolution to eradicate inequity and poverty: he gave everything, risked all, for what he believed. Subhash, the dutiful son, didn’t share his brother’s political passion; he left home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.
Life takes a turn after Udayan is killed and Subhash has to come back to Calcutta. Subhash marries Udayan’s widow Gauri after he learns that she is pregnant with Udayan’s child and takes her to United States with him. Both for Subhash and Gauri take such turns that they rather start drifting apart than growing close as one. Udayan’ ghost is always present between them and as a result, Gauri is never really able to live life beyond him. Toward the closure, we are left with fickle ends about the lives of Subhash and Gauri. Each stuck amidst time gone and that which is yet to come. It ends abruptly, though, and keeps you searching for something again and again on the last page. It makes you feel almost sorry that the book has ended.
The Lowland is an incredible confirmation that Lahiri is a writer of extraordinary caliber who makes seem even the tryst of times and the most complex human emotions quite effortless to be captured on paper and delivered to readers’ hearts. I classify this novel as one that beautifully illustrates the human condition. The human condition shapes who we are as an individual, a family, a society and I am fascinated by it. The Lowland is worth every minute of time spent immersed in the lives of the people living with the rhythm of the lowland.
My rating: 4/5