I really identified with the narrator of Jumpha Lahiri’s new book, Whereabouts. The storyteller is an Italian woman in her 40s, a solitary soul who wrestles with conflicting needs and desires. She likes to be alone and unattached, but also seeks companionship and belonging. It was amazing how I could identify her “whereabouts” even though the setting was in a place and a country I have never been to before. Each chapter was very short but moved in such a way that made me feel that I was continuously searching for something.
Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lowlands and Interpreter of Maladies, first wrote this novel in Italian and then translated it into English. It is composed of 46 brief chapters; each one is a reflection written by the narrator at different locations in the unnamed city where she lives over the course of a year. The locations become the chapter titles: “At My House,” “In the Shade,” “In My Head,” “At the Supermarket.” When pieced together, these loosely connected musings create a picture of a life at a crossroads.
It has been over a decade since Lahiri has published a novel. I think Whereabouts was well worth the wait.
Review by Katy Dodge, Head of Children’s Services
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