Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: Unaccustomed Earth

Title: Unaccustomed Earth
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
My Rating: 4 Stars
Short Review: An interesting collection of short stories dealing with multicultural lives.

I read "The Interpreter of maladies" about 5 years ago and loved it. Then, I read Namesake, and though I found the theme repetitive, I still enjoyed the book. I hesitated before picking up The Unaccustomed Earth because I knew that Lahiri had again revisited the same theme - multicultural lives. Fresh-off-the-boat Indian parents, second generation kids that are caught between the values of the culture they are living in and values of the culture that their parents expect them to follow. How many different stories can you churn with the same theme?
Apparently, many! I was surprised when I picked up the book and realized that I was actually enjoying the book even though I had expected to find it repetitive. Lahiri manages to keep the stories interesting and the characters unique.
I usually prefer full length novels to short stories. Even before I understand the characters and get in to the feel, short stories are usually over and leave me feeling like something's lacking. But Lahiri somehow manages to keep the stories short and yet convey every little information that I require to "get into" the story.
At the end of the story, it feels like I've read a novel. I know the characters, I understand them well, I don't find the story incomplete.. I still yearn to read more about them but that happens with any good book, right? You don't want it to end.
The Unaccustomed Earth is a relatively quick read. The stories are longer than usual short stories but the language  flows beautifully and you are done with the book much before you actually want it to end.
I give it only 4 stars because I find the themes recurring. I wish Lahiri would explore new arenas. She is an amazing writer and I keep hoping she'd get out of her niche and experiment with a different subject.
What did you think of the Unaccustomed Earth?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review: Moloka'i

Title: Moloka'i
Author: Alan Brennert
Genre: Fiction
My rating: 4.5 Stars
Description: A novel revolving around the fictitious life of Rachel Kalama who is "banished" to the leprosy settlement in the island of Molokai when she was 7 years old. 

On the island of Molokai in the Hawaiian archipelago is a little village called Kalaupapa. The first thought that comes to mind while thinking of a village in Hawaii is beauty. However, Kalaupapa is associated with a very "ugly" history. In the late 1800s, Hawaiians who had/were suspected of having lepsory were immediately isolated and kept in quarantine. If medical tests came back positive, the victims were immediately shipped away to Kalaupapa, which can been aptly described as "a prison fortified by nature". There was no escape from this settlement.Luckily, the colony soon attacted caretakers who were ready to take care of the patients in spite of the widespread belief that leprosy was a highly contagious disease.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert is set in the village of Kalaupapa. 7 year old Rachel Kalama is diagnosed with the disease and is "banished" to the leprosy settlement.In this place where lives are supposed to end, Rachel's just begins. She leads as normal as life as possible in the village surrounded by victims in various stages of decline. Death is a common phenomenon and life is not taken for granted here. But amidst all the sickness and death, Rachel sees that the victims still live life to the fullest. She, like most others on the island, develops strong friendships, supports other in times of need, falls in love, indulges in favorite activities, and in general stays happy!

Molokai is an amazing book. It is really well written. I sobbed my way through the first part of the book - the cruel action of separating an innocent girl from her family was heart wrenching, the condition of the people on Molokai was appaling and I felt that things could only go downhill when Rachel was sent to Molokai. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was wrong. There was so much more to the place than just disease and death. Rachel grows up amidst people who love her.

The books ends in 1970 with the death of Rachel Kalama - but on a positive note. By this time, antibiotics have been developed to battle the bacteria and patients are no longer quarantined and sent to Kalaupapa.

I would definitely recommend this book. Even though this is a fiction, it is a well researched book and the facts about the leprosy settlement are accurate.

Have you already read this book? what are your thoughts? Did you like it as much as I did?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Harry Potter

Title – Harry Potter – The Complete Collection (7 Books)
Author – J.K. Rowling
Genre – Fantasy

Well, this is not so much a review as a documentation of the fact that I have FINALLY gotten around to reading this much acclaimed set of books. I don't think anybody would need a introduction to the series.

I remember being a HP fanatic several years ago when the first few books came out. I read the first book as soon as it came out, loved it, couldn’t wait for the second book. When the second book came out, I re-read the first book (to get in to the HP mood all over again) and then read the second book. By the time the third book came out, I was beginning to lose interest in the series (more because of the wait involved between books than because of the actual content of the books). I wouldn’t have read the book if a dear friend had not convinced me to read it before dragging me to the theatre to watch the movie! And the rest of the books, I just didn’t read them! The world around raved and ranted about the books. Even those that weren’t too much in to books seemed to have read HP (or at least claimed to have done so!). I knew I’d eventually read them all. I wanted to wait until all the books in the series came out so I could read them all at once and not have to wait for a year or more to figure out what was going to happen next.

And finally, more than a decade after the first book came out, I accomplished what I wanted to. My husband gifted me the complete Harry Potter boxed set on my birthday last year ..:) And what better way to begin the New Years than this?? I started reading the books and just couldn’t put them down. I’d finish one book and pick the next one and continued reading it like one big giant HP book. Having a 9 month old to take care of, didn’t allow me to indulge in ways that I would have done earlier. My reading times were restricted to when I was either commuting or the precious minutes that I managed to sneak in before I slipped in to an unconscious state that only sleep deprived ones can achieve.. But I have no regrets. Reading the 7 books at a stretch (all 4,100 pages of it) was a very memorable experience.

What are your thoughts on the series?