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A marvelous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Lowland and Interpreter of Maladies—her first in nearly a decade—about a woman questioning her place in the world, wavering between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties.
A Most Anticipated Novel of 2021 from • Buzzfeed • O, The Oprah Magazine • TIME • Vulture • Vogue • LitHub • Harper's Bazaar
Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. In the arc of one year, an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life’s journey, realizes that she’s lost her way. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone.
We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband’s untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman’s path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.
This is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri’s work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This melancholic short novel from Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri is an impressionistic yet visceral meditation on life as a middle-aged single woman. Set in an unnamed Italian city, Whereabouts is styled as a series of vignettes from a year in the narrator’s largely solitary life as she drifts, aimlessly, from her apartment to her job to occasional social gatherings. Lahiri’s elegant prose, which she translated herself from the original Italian, highlights her incomparable ability to wring poetry from the mundane. Combining quiet wistfulness with moments of fierce joy, Whereabouts is a portrait of a life untethered.
The latest from Pulitzer winner Lahiri (The Interpreter of Maladies) is a meditative and aching snapshot of a life in suspension. The unnamed narrator, a single, middle-aged woman, lives a quiet life in an unnamed Italian city, ambling between cafes and storefronts, dinner parties with friends, and a leisurely career as a writer and teacher. The tranquil surface of her life belies a deeper unrest: a frayed, distant relationship with her widowed mother, romantic longings projected onto unavailable friends, and constant second-guessing of the paths her life has taken. The novel is told in short vignettes introducing a new scene and characters whose relationships are fertile ground for Lahiri's impressive powers of observation. In a museum, for instance, sunlight refracted through the glass roof "brightens and darkens the room in turns. It's a panorama that makes me think of the sea, of swimming in a clear blue patch underwater." Throughout, Lahiri's poetic flourishes and spare, conversational prose are on full display. This beautifully written portrait of a life in passage captures the hopes, frustrations, and longings of solitude and remembrance.