The Lowland

Author: Lahiri, Jhumpa
Fiction or Non-Fiction: Fiction
Time period:  1950s- present
Book length: 432 pages
What communities does this book explore? Indian immigrant
Short summary of the book:

The lowland artfully tells the story of a family torn apart by the death of a brother and how just because someone dies their memory can continue to haunt and shape a family. Even though the death takes place in India it still shapes the entire family’s existence after some of the immigrate to America.  The story beautifully unfolds from love to heartbreak to love and back to heartbreak and ultimately to forgiveness.

Does this book cover any historical events that shape this group’s identity?

The Lowland brings up a number of historical Indian events some of which are not well explained but are very interesting. It prompted me to look more into the Naxalite movement, a communist uprising in India that is at the center of the story. It also brings up the Partition of Bangladesh from India which left Kolkata in India although there was some question about which side of the border it would end up on.

Criticism of the book:  

This book is long and only deals with the issues of being an immigrant in America on the surface while focusing more on how other events shape this family and their interactions. Although in many ways this is still a strength because it shows more of the depth of their identity aside from simply being immigrants to America. There seemed to be many ways to have improved the story by giving secondary characters like the parents and Bela more depth but despite its length somehow I was left wanting more development of some characters.

Best for readers who are interested in considering the baggage some immigrants may bring with them and how our personal history can shape us more than simply the color of our skin.
What others say about this book: This book was on the NYT best sellers list for months and was nominated for many prizes including being a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and National Book Award. This was also on Obama’s reading list in 2016 so if it’s good enough for the president it’s good enough for us.
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