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The Lowland
Cover of The Lowland
The Lowland
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National Book Award Finalist

Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary new novel, set in both India and America, that expands the scope and range of one of our most dazzling storytellers: a tale of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death.

Born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. It is the 1960s, and Udayan—charismatic and impulsive—finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother's political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family's home, he goes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind—including those seared in the heart of his brother's wife.

Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity. It is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.


From the Hardcover edition.

National Book Award Finalist

Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary new novel, set in both India and America, that expands the scope and range of one of our most dazzling storytellers: a tale of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love that lasts long past death.

Born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. It is the 1960s, and Udayan—charismatic and impulsive—finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother's political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family's home, he goes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind—including those seared in the heart of his brother's wife.

Masterly suspenseful, sweeping, piercingly intimate, The Lowland is a work of great beauty and complex emotion; an engrossing family saga and a story steeped in history that spans generations and geographies with seamless authenticity. It is Jhumpa Lahiri at the height of her considerable powers.


From the Hardcover edition.
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  • From the book

    Normally she stayed on the balcony, reading, or kept to an adjacent room as her brother and Udayan studied and smoked and drank cups of tea. Manash had befriended him at Calcutta University, where they were both graduate students in the physics department. Much of the time their books on the behaviors of liquids and gases would sit ignored as they talked about the repercussions of Naxalbari, and commented on the day's events.

    The discussions strayed to the insurgencies in Indochina and in Latin American countries. In the case of Cuba it wasn't even a mass movement, Udayan pointed out. Just a small group, attacking the right targets.

    All over the world students were gaining momentum, standing up to exploitative systems. It was another example of Newton's second law of motion, he joked. Force equals mass times acceleration.

    Manash was skeptical. What could they, urban students, claim to know about peasant life?

    Nothing, Udayan said. We need to learn from them.

    Through an open doorway she saw him. Tall but slight of build, twenty-three but looking a bit older. His clothing hung on him loosely. He wore kurtas but also European-style shirts, irreverently, the top portion unbuttoned, the bottom untucked, the sleeves rolled back past the elbow.

    He sat in the room where they listened to the radio. On the bed that served as a sofa where, at night, Gauri slept. His arms were lean, his fingers too long for the small porcelain cups of tea her family served him, which he drained in just a few gulps. His hair was wavy, the brows thick, the eyes languid and dark.

    His hands seemed an extension of his voice, always in motion, embellishing the things he said. Even as he argued he smiled easily. His upper teeth overlapped slightly, as if there were one too many of them. From the beginning, the attraction was there.

    He never said anything to Gauri if she happened to brush by. Never glancing, never acknowledging that she was Manash's younger sister, until the day the houseboy was out on an errand, and Manash asked Gauri if she minded making them some tea.

    She could not find a tray to put the teacups on. She carried them in, nudging open the door to the room with her shoulder.
    Looking up at her an instant longer than he needed to, Udayan took his cup from her hands.

    The groove between his mouth and nose was deep. Clean-shaven. Still looking at her, he posed his first question.

    Where do you study? he asked.

    *
    Because she went to Presidency, and Calcutta University was just next door, she searched for him on the quadrangle, and among the bookstalls, at the tables of the Coffee House if she went there with a group of friends. Something told her he did not go to his classes as regularly as she did. She began to watch for him from the generous balcony that wrapped around the two sides of her grandparents' flat, overlooking the intersection where Cornwallis Street began. It became something for her to do.

    Then one day she spotted him, amazed that she knew which of the hundreds of dark heads was his. He was standing on the opposite corner, buying a packet of cigarettes. Then he was crossing the street, a cotton book bag over his shoulder, glancing both ways, walking toward their flat.

    She crouched below the filigree, under the clothes drying on the line, worried that he would look up and see her. Two minutes later she heard footsteps climbing the stairwell, and then the rattle of the iron knocker on the door of the flat. She heard the door being opened, the houseboy letting him in.

    It was an afternoon everyone, including Manash, happened to be out, and she'd been reading,...

About the Author-
  • JHUMPA LAHIRI is the author of Interpreter of Maladies, awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Hemingway Award; The Namesake; and Unaccustomed Earth, a #1 New York Times bestseller and a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2012. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and 2 children.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The combination of a prize-winning bestselling novelist and an experienced narrator does not necessarily make for a compelling audio title. Sunil Malhotra, who is often the narrator of choice when it comes to giving voice to the Indian subcontinent, fails to bring the vigor of young boys frolicking in childhood to the listener. Perhaps his understated delivery is intended to reflect the tragedy at the core of the story, but his muted, somber tone becomes monotonous over time. While there's no technical fault in his precise, deliberate style, the overall effect of his steady pace leaves the listener wishing for any slight change in volume or pace. M.R. (c) AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 15, 2013
    Lahiri’s (The Namesake) haunting second novel crosses generations, oceans, and the chasms that despair creates within families. Subhash and Udayan are brothers, 15 months apart, born in Calcutta in the years just before Indian independence and the country’s partition. As children, they are inseparable: Subhash is the elder, and the careful and reserved one; Udayan is more willful and wild. When Subhash moves to the U.S. for graduate school in the late 1960s, he has a hard time keeping track of Udayan’s involvement in the increasingly violent Communist uprising taking place throughout West Bengal. The only person who will eventually be able to tell Subhash, if not quite explain, what happened to his brother is Gauri, Udayan’s love-match wife, of whom the brothers’ parents do not approve. Forced by circumstances, Gauri and Subhash form their own relationship, one both intimate and distant, which will determine much of the rest of their adult lives. Lahiri’s skill is reflected not only in her restrained and lyric prose, but also in her moving forward chronological time while simultaneously unfolding memory, which does not fade in spite of the years. A formidable and beautiful book. 350,000-copy announced first printing. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME Entertainment.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 27, 2014
    When Subhash’s closest friend and brother, Udayan, is killed because of his participation in a revolutionary movement in Calcutta in the 1960s, he attempts to do the responsible thing and take his brother’s pregnant wife, Gauri, with him to the United States, where he is pursuing education and a new life. Yet both Subhash and Gauri will be haunted by and need to confront the absence of Udayan as the years pass. The waves of emotion and duress that ripple through Lahiri’s narrative are well communicated in Malhotra’s narration. Intentionally or not, his voice at times can feel disconnected from the text, which ably captures moments in which the characters are attempting to distance themselves from each other. Malhotra is capable of teasing out the emotional depth of a given scene with emphasis and timing. He maintains consistent voices for his characters and balances the different accents that emerge during this intergenerational tale. A Knopf hardcover.

  • Parade

    "A subtle but devastating tale of two brothers coming of age in 1960s Calcutta . . . The themes of this beautifully written novel may be grand--love, revolution, desertion--but it's an intimate tale that offers no easy answers."

  • Sophie Harris, Time Out New York
    "Compelling . . . beautiful. A family saga that finds its roots in a 1967 Calcutta rebellion [but] extends its reach to present-day Rhode Island. The long-awaited follow-up to her ravishing first novel, The Namesake, justifies its lengthy gestation. The story develops like a rip in a piece of fabric that keeps tearing: a gripping meditation on absence, alienation and loss . . . Exquisitely written and deeply moving."
  • Julie Hakim Azzam, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "It's been a few weeks since I finished The Lowland, and my head and heart are still with the book. The novel moves back and forth in time and takes on different points of view, which allow readers to see how anger and betrayal redound through the generations . . . The Lowland dwells in complex territory [and its] insights point toward an unspoken question: Is it irresponsible--or even criminal--to risk your life for a political cause that may not be realized in your lifetime? The Lowland is a stylistic achievement and marks a shift in Lahiri's writing. As always, the novel is full of sharp insights about marriage and parenthood, politics and commitment. It is the kind of book that stays with you long after you finish it."
  • Anjali Joseph, The Times Literary Supplement (UK) "Lahiri's new novel begins in the manner of Flaubert . . . It is her big novel: possessed of historical moment and reach. But for the most part, history is only the element in which the characters' lives unfold, and this allows Lahiri to exercise her own special talent. She is capable of great elegance, and here, her subject is the failure of relationships between characters, and the ways in which people hold back from living their lives . . . Lahiri writes with great emotional precision [and] moves confidently between different periods in a manner reminiscent of James Salter's Light Years. Her version of the epic is one in which the ordinary becomes illuminated. She seems to write of families, but actually writes of aloneness, of people avoiding those who are closest to them . . . Her voice [has] unusual, almost old-fashioned moral authority."
  • Urmila Seshagiri, Los Angeles Review of Books "Stunning. . . Lahiri is an American realist in the manner of John Updike, Philip Roth, and Jonathan Franzen . . . Her magisterial canvases portray the elusive, vexed promises that comprise the mythos of the United States . . . In The Lowland, a multigenerational family story that unfolds in counterpoint between India and the United States, Lahiri emphasizes neither the immigrant's cultural displacement nor a contest of values between old world and new. Rather, this exquisitely written novel defines the very condition of American life through an exploration of the impossible prospect of belonging . . . The Lowland [is written] with astonishing precision, moving far beyond the terrain of immigrant displacement to map patterns of unity and separation in the smallest moments of daily life [and] painstakingly delineating the defining trait of Americanness: an intricate, dynamic balance between flux and constancy, permanence and transience. The Lowland orchestrates this balance with a tragic lyricism, honoring the United States, and telling its myriad stories of insiders and outsiders alike."
  • Kevin Grauke, Philadelphia Inquirer
    "Exquisite . . . Lahiri emerged upon the literary scene like Athena from the head of Zeus: fully formed and glorious . . . She explores here what she has always explored best: the fragile inner workings of her characters . . . Their true, hidden natures shimmer vibrantly for us. Lahiri compels us to empathize with [them] as they muddle through life, maintaining secrets in some instances and revealing truths in others--all in the name of protecting whatever or whomever they hold most dear. A simple but profound question seems to hover in the air throughout The Lowland
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