the guardian Fri 12 June 2009
Though many writers have included the events of 9/11 in their stories, few works of fiction even allude to the Boxing Day tsunami in the Indian Ocean of 2004. Jhumpa Lahiri incorporates it, albeit obliquely, into the tragic conclusion of this collection, though the effect is as measured, proportionate and precisely controlled as everything she writes. These stories are miniatures in comparison to Lahiri's masterful novel, The Namesake, but her subject remains the fragile balance of family life and the cultural fissures manifest among Bengalis settled in America. The impact of Lahiri's work is often to be found in the subtle reversal of expectations. The title story features an overstretched mother who hopes that her recently widowed father will be available to help out, only to find that he values his independence. "He did not want to be part of another family, part of the mess, the feuds, the demands, the energy of it," thus becoming a highly unusual instance of a Bengali father who does not want to move in with his children.