The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lowland by Jhumpa LahiriThe two brothers in The Lowland are so close that people often mistake them for twins. They do everything together and they are similar in appearance, yet they have always had different temperaments. Subhash, the elder brother, is the more serious one, and Udayan is more bold and idealistic. When they reach college age, these differences become more apparent. Subhash works hard and jumps at the chance to further his education in America. Udayan is less focused on academics and becomes involved in the radical leftist movement at the university in Calcutta. The movement begins with students who want to eliminate poverty in India, but eventually becomes outlawed when it is infiltrated by guerrilla communist groups.

While Subhash is in Boston, Udayan falls in love and marries young, moving with his bride back to their parent’s home. Everyone believes Udayan has left his radical days behind, but one day Subhash receives an urgent request to come back to India because of a tragedy in the family.

What happens next will change the course of Subhash’s life, as well as the lives his parents and Udayan’s bride. Lahiri’s lyrical writing gives a wonderful picture of family life in Calcutta and of the student movement of the 1960s. The book then follows the family through the rest of their lives to show what happened to them after Udayan’s death. I enjoyed this approach because I am often left wondering what happened to characters I become so involved with after the book ends. Fans of Lahiri’s other book, The Namesake, will not be disappointed.

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