The Interpreter of Maladies is a collection of nine short stories involving the lives of Indian American immigrants and their children. Some stories document the struggle immigrants go through as they attempt to adjust to a new society. Some characters want to hold on to their own cultural identity, or at least a peace of it. Others find it difficult to immerse themselves into the American way of life and, therefore, feel like an outsider. Sometimes, even the American-born children of immigrants feel like outsiders, unable to truly identify with either culture. In other cases, American-born children are largely disconnected from their heritage. For example, in the title-story, when Mr. and Mrs. Das visit their home country for the first time, they seem more like American tourists than Indians returning home.
Although none of the stories are action-packed, each one does take a small unexpected turn in the end. Also, the theme of love is evident in each story. For instance, in “A Temporary Matter,” Shobar and Shukumar are both aware of their faltering marriage. While both seek a new beginning, Shobar is alone in hoping for a new beginning together. However, love is not always related to romance. For example, in “When Mr. Pirzada came to dine” and “The Third and Final Continent,” love is more about friendship.
In general, although this book was a good way to pass time in the cardio room, it wasn’t a can’t-put-it-down type of book. Maybe the lack of action had something to do with it because it did seem kind of slow. But overall, I would recommend this book to immigrants and children of immigrants for I think they would definitely be able to relate to many of the experiences relayed in the book.
And the Mountains Echoed begins as Saboor tells his two children the story of a poor man, Baby Ayub, who chooses to let his youngest and most favored child go so that the boy can have a better future. Not only is this the last story Saboor entertains his children with, but also foreshadows the fate of Saboor’s daughter Pari. Pari and her older brother, Abdullah, are both devastated when Pari is given away to a wealthy couple in Kabul, the Wahdati’s, for they were unusually close. Following the story of Abdullah and Pari’s separation are a series of intertwined stories documenting the lives of a number of people who are all connected in some way.
One of the most memorable quotes for me was what Pari says to her niece – also named Pari – regarding her adoptive mother, Nila Wahdati,
“I wish I had been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that”
Four hundred and sixteen pages long, this is truly a must read!