Subhash and Udayan Mitra are brothers, born just fifteen months apart. Life in Calcutta is good and the brothers are close. Yet, Subhash chooses to move to the United States for college, while Udayan stays, becoming a revolutionary as he opposes the politics in 1960s India.
Subhash and Udayan's divergent paths place them far apart from each other physically, but also emotionally. When Subhash is summoned home after his brother's untimely death, he meets Gauri, his brother's widow. Gauri is unwelcome in her in-laws home, and Subhash offers to take her to the United States where they can start a life together.
Although the brothers relationship is the central focus of the novel's beginning, it is a spring board for a story that spans generations, as Subhash and Gauri's lives unfold along with their daughter, Bela's.
Gauri comes to the United States still grieving the loss of her husband and dealing with her own feelings of guilt for her role in Udayan's death. She is also pregnant with his child, a baby that Subhash agrees to raise as his own. It is Subhash who is the doting father, and Gauri who finds her joy in academia, pursuing a doctorate while ignoring her own child.
Bela grows up, loved by her father, unaware that he is her uncle and that her own father is dead. The secret that Gauri and Subhash have kept cannot remain a secret forever, nor can Gauri's own exile from her child.
Lahiri explores love, heartbreak and family ties in The Lowland, creating real, flawed characters who we are able to watch experience life with all its ups and downs. Although set in Calcutta, a place I am unfamiliar with, the story within is universal and one that everyone can relate to.
The Lowland is highly recommended, as are any other books by Lahiri, an author whose work I always admire.