Review: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of 9 unique short stories with a common thread… the characters are mostly people of Indian descent, either in America or India.

Lahiri tells these fish out of water experiences of immigrants and first generation Americans with compassion.  They are stories of everyday situations and frustrations; snapshots of daily life. Lahiri’s precise attention to detail is what makes them so amazing.

All 9 stories are excellent, but my favorite was the first story in the collection.  “A Temporary Matter” is about a young married couple whose marriage is suffering after the loss of a baby.  Their relationship has disintegrated into long stretches of silence until they get a notice that, for a week, their power will be cut off for an hour each evening.  For that week, they share meals and secrets by candlelight, until one heartbreaking secret is more than they can bear.

Lahiri is a gifted writer whose style is very subtle, sensitive and restrained.   Her stories are realistic and touching, and are told from different perspectives (1st person, 3rd person, narrator).  She writes of arranged marriages, marriages in trouble, loneliness within marriages, an affair between a girl and a married man, envy, fear, love; in other words, the human experience.  I would highly recommend this Pulitzer Prize winning collection.

Book clubs can find discussion questions HERE.

14 Responses

  1. interesting review.

  2. This book sounds really good. I’ll put it on my list of books to buy (which seems to be longer than long).

  3. I really liked this book…and I generally don’t read short stories. I’d like to read her novel at some point.

  4. I really liked this book as well; her novel is also good. She was so good at capturing things with the smallest details.

  5. Hi guys, thanks for the comments. Tara and beastmomma, I read The Namesake last year and really enjoyed it.

  6. Lahiri’s other book, The Namesake, is one of my favorites and I would absolutely recommend reading it. I put Interpreter of Maladies on my wishlist… thanks for the great review!

  7. The Namesake is one I keep hearing about… Do you ever have books that are recommended to you so often that you can’t remember if you read them or not?

  8. I teach “Interpreter of Maladies” – the short story by that name – in my Introduction to Literature class. It is one of my favorites. The writing is both lyrical and emotional. It is filled with exotic sounds, sights, and flavors (like the chili flavored puffed rice in the paper cone), and it creates the sort of emotional response that I find much of commercial fiction is lacking.

    Lahiri manages to speak volumes on relationships and marriage, while actually making very little commentary on them at all. Her subtle skill is mastery. Thanks for mentioning this great writer!


  9. Thanks, everyone, for commenting Kwj, your comment is a review in itself, and a much much better one than mine, which makes sense since you’re a real writer and I’m a blogger!! Thank you!

  10. I’ve read this book several times (although not for some time) and I love it! “The Namesake” is also quite good, but I think I prefer “The Interpreter of Maladies.”

  11. I agree the first story is the best, sad as it is; there’s something about the candlelight setting…Also, I’ll echo the recommendation of The Namesake (but not the movie!) and wanted to add that she has a new book coming out on April 1: Unaccustomed Earth. Yes!

  12. i am studying ‘a real durwan’ as par of my literature course. does anyone have any opinions about the sociological issues in this story particularly? a response from kwjwrites would be great as you seem to be a teacher/lecturer? thanks

  13. I absolutely loved this book! The first story was my favorite as well. Have you read her latest yet?

  14. […] Also reviewed by: A Devoted Reader, Raych at books i done read, Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot, and Lisa at Books on the Brain […]

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