Lowland tells the story of two brothers in Calcutta, born fifteen months apart but inseparable throughout their childhood. Subhash, the eldest, is a dutiful son, studious and serious and devoted to his parents. Udayan is wild and willful, full of mischief and daring, and when he becomes embroiled in a rebellion in India, Subhash can no longer follow him. Instead, he heads to Rhode Island to become a scholar and a researcher. When Udayan suffers a terrible fate, Subhash heads back to India to try to heal his family, including Udayan’s young bride Guari.
What follows is a tale full of longing and loneliness and a quest for understanding and forgiveness. Beautifully told, not all of the characters are likeable, but they all are heartbreakingly understandable. In their grief, Subhash’s mother can be cold and cruel, but you cry out for her pain and her inability to heal. Even Guari, who you want to slap, you eventually can feel sympathy towards as she lives a life of self-imposed loneliness. And Subhash, poor Subhash, who has tried to do everything right and seen everything go so horribly wrong, for him you just wish some semblance of peace and happiness.
“Most people trusted in the future, assuming that their preferred version of it would unfold. Blindly planning for it, envisioning things that weren’t the case. This was the working of the will. This was what gave the world purpose and direction. Not what was there but what was not.”
Title: The Lowland
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Publication: Knopf, September 2013