We don’t often think about the long-term effects of an individual death on the lives of others. So often death serves as an endpoint or a tragic inevitability. Jhumpa Lahiri has endeavored to write a novel where death is front and central, chronicling the lives of characters left behind to cope with the grief and those in future generations yet to come who will share its impact. Lahiri does so with all of the sentimentality and feeling that it deserves.
Lahiri anchors her epic in the chaotic events of the Naxalite (Maoist) rebellion in Bengal, a period of time where class warfare and student protest engulfed Calcutta and many lives hung in the balance. In The Lowland, one such life is lost, sending reverberations and ripples across oceans and years separating the personal histories of the family left behind. A brother, with whom an inseparable bond was formed in childhood. A wife, whose blind love leaves deep-seated issues about trust and attachment. Two parents, whose grief is inconsolable. And a daughter, unknown and unborn, whose life is irrevocably altered by events before her birth.
The Lowland is a story about love and loss, sacrifice and selfishness, time and memory. It is an elegiac, beautiful, and deeply compassionate family saga.