The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis
Author: Jhumpra Lahiri
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pub Date: April 24, 2000
The Interpreter of Maladies is not only a collection of nine short stories, but I think, a name well suited to the author, Jhumpa Lahiri. Her writing is direct and easy, yet expertly and artistically controlled. She gives you just enough detail in the right places so that her subtle hints help bridge the landscape of her characters and their stories.
Yes, her stories entail the immigrant experience, but they also tell a universal story; the story of ordinary living that compels you to appreciate and consider the implications they have.
There is the story of the couple that has grown apart only to reveal the vulnerable parts of themselves to each other in the dark.
The bond between a father figure and a girl who are left only to be separated by borders and the reunion of a missing wife and seven children.
Desire for an American tourist turns dark after a compulsion to confess indiscretion to a tour guide.
There is the stigma and scapegoat of a street woman for the woes that transpire in an old apartment building.
The Love and tolerance of an American mistress toward her Bengali lover only to be thwarted by the inevitability of her relationship’s failure.
The underrated connection between an Indian babysitter and a neglected American boy.
The culmination of a secretly unhappy marriage because of an overly flamboyant wife compelled to ignore her husband’s wishes.
And the story of the isolation and desolation a woman feels in being neglected and misunderstood because of epilepsy.
Lahiri is a master storyteller who doesn’t hide behind obtuse language to prove she is a good writer. She tells you just enough so that you can understand her characters’ positions and experiences, as if they are your own. And she makes the plot interesting enough, that once you come away from the story, you linger, often wishing there was more.
She is a wonderful ambassador of India and America and what it means to be on the peripheral. I am glad to say that Jhumpa Lahiri is my new heroine as a masterful writer, an intelligent artist, and a person with the heart of a poet.