Interpreter of Maladies (Review)

Interpreter of Maladies (Review)

his isn’t my usual type of book. There are no trains, no musketeers and no spaceships. This is about ordinary people, Indian people, going through gradual encounters of change. My wife read it and I had a look – after all, it couldn’t suck too badly. Ms. Lahiri won a Pulitzer for this effort.

You also might remember that I reviewed the first story I read a few weeks ago, A Temporary Matter. I really enjoyed it, and looked forward to more of the same. And in that, my hopes were realized.

Again, not dramatic action here, no 24 pace. There isn’t even deliberate irony or meaning. But one can read these stories and see how the characters might have arrived at their ending positions. For example, in the title story, Interpreter of Maladies, an older man who normally works for a city doctor helping to describe his patents ailments ends up tour-guiding for an Americanized Indian couple (and their bratty kids). Here the main character hopes that the wife might confess something to him yet when she does, it doesn’t go as he planned. And in This Blessed House, a somewhat mismatched married couple (he an executive, she a free-spirit) purchase a house in America where the former residents hid away Christian items for them to uncover. The wife approaches it as a game, he as a transgression. In Mrs Sen’s, an American boy is after-schooled by a quiet Indian bride. While we see hints of her superior culture in her grace and poise, we also see its weakness in her lack of independence and murderous ineptitude at driving. And Sexy, where a Western woman has an affair with an Indian man and deals with the issues of cheating and infidelity – not directly, but with a growing unease.

Like I said, all of the stories were good in their subtle ways. It was like a cup of rich tea, not a diet soda. They were pleasurable and thoughtful and interesting and, like life, left me wondering where each was going.

For the advanced reader, I can only strongly recommend this work. You won’t be sorry.