Interpreter of Maladies
My sister, the librarian, tries to read all the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels (this, in addition to her quest to see all the "Best Picture" Oscar winners). I've always thought that admirable, but never had any urge. Perhaps I feared the books would be too obtuse? Well, after reading Interpreter of Maladies, I could change my mind. This debut collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri won a bunch of prizes, including the 2000 Pulitzer for fiction.
After reading one per night, I enjoyed each and every story so much that I'm not sure I could name a favorite. The title story is set in the state of Orissa in India, where I spent much of my time when I was there three years ago. The couple travel to the sun temple in Konarak, which I was lucky to visit, and the story brought back memories.
But even if you have not been to India, Lahiri's stories can take you there--or to the minds of her usually Indian-American characters. My friend Jenny (who is starting an international book group that meets at a restaurant of the setting of the book--I would have loved to discuss this over a samosa!) said the first story, "A Temporary Matter," really struck her. It's about a young couple having marital trouble (and infertility, of course! I can't get away from it!)
If I had to pick my favorite, it would be "This Blessed House," about the Indian couple who disagree about what to do with all the tacky Christian images and tchotchkes they keep finding in their new house. It portrays the tension between two people just starting to live together, but also this young woman's (named Twinkle) openness to whatever happens. "Each day is like a treasure hunt!" she tells a friend. The ending is bittersweet (like most in the book) and you're not clear if this couple is going to make it. But the fact that the house seems to be "blessed" bodes well, I think.
After enjoying this so much, I think I'll put Lahiri's novel The Namesake on my list.