Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Family and responsibility are at the core of this literary novel set in India and the United States. Two brothers - almost as close as twins - take very different paths in their young adulthood. Which is greater: civil action that works for change, or the tending of tradition and family?

We read this as a book discussion title at the library, but I didn't finish it in time for the conversation. Too bad, because there's a lot to talk about.

Even while Subhash builds a life in America, he's bound by duty to his family in India. He marries out of a sense of obligation, but when their daughter is born he finds a pure delight in raising her in Rhode Island. His duty to her future becomes more urgent than his dedication to the past - but that's not true for his wife, who never really left India behind.

The book offers mothers and fathers, siblings, husbands and wives, and there are lots of comparisons to be drawn between counterparts. Also, the role of responsibility: personal responsibility, family obligations, parental duty, social activism, passive acceptance. It's a heavy book, filled with lots of internal dilemmas, and it really would make for a fantastic discussion.

I listened to the audiobook version, which was an excellent way to read a book filled with foreign names and places.

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