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.
If you’re looking for jaw-dropping drama of prison life, unexpected turns, bumps in the road, or anything close to real experiences of hardships, this book may not be for you. Instead, what you’ll find is an account of the prison experience of an “atypical” female inmate, Piper Kerman. Unlike most of her fellow inmates, she’s a white, blonde, blue-eyed, middle class career women with a boyfriend/fiance, Larry, who seems completely understanding of her past. Also, unlike most other inmates whose criminal behavior was related to a need to survive, Kerman’s involvement in a decade old drug crime was the result of youthful curiosity and desire for adventure. Her experience in prison also seems atypical in that her race and educational background allots her several privileges that enable her to escape grueling experiences others may have. At least that’s the way she makes it seem.
Despite being completely void of drama or tension, I did find myself returning to the book multiple times a day. What I found most intriguing is the insight this book provides into the social norms of the particular prison she was at for nearly 2 years. Women who look after each other, special movie nights and dishes prepared in the microwave, the norms of greeting new inmates with gifts and the specific questions asked, etc. It sheds light on the fact that in any situation, where there is more than 1 person, there will be norms of some sort. And when those norms are broken, there are consequences. The book also provides insight into the fact that many female inmates are not adequately prepared to face the outside world. For instance, women in prison are not really taught how to find legitimate employment other than being advised to use the Internet. The problem, however, lies in the fact that most of these women either don’t know how to use computers or don’t own them. It’s no surprise, therefore, that inmates often return to prison shortly after release. Overall, it’s not the most action-packed book, but much can still be gained.