Interpreter of Maladies: A Temporary Matter
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I felt like the story was also about blame. The loss of the baby was nobody's fault, but they both needed a place for that blame and anger to go, so they took it out on each other, mostly via passive (/passive aggressive) means.
The darkness that seemed to help them confront their darkest secrets, though temporary, became a bridge that allowed them to cross over into the feelings that seemed to be lost.
It is hard to determine whether Shoba's confession of having gone though with leasing a new place caused within Shukumar fear of losing her or joy at the prospect of no longer having to deal with her. Telling her about seeing the baby felt almost like he was getting revenge for her resenting him for not being at the hospital when she lost the baby.
Also, Lahiri works up to the climax with a slow boil -- slowly revealing the ways that we hide things from each other to avoid, as we might see it, hurting each other and then, how we might reveal things, sometimes, with the explicit aim to hurt another person.
So, a confession. I hadn't realized this till rereading this story because I read it when the book first came out. Last year, I wrote a short story which was published by Amazon's Day One Literary Journal. It's also about a married couple. In mine, they've lost 2 pregnancies and are trying for the third. And, while my characters are entirely different and deal with secrets and lies differently, I see now that Lahiri's story must have stayed with me somewhat. Of course, my writing style is entirely different also.
After giving it more thought they seem to be fundamentally not suited.
The story gets inside Shukumar's mind but we are left to speculate about Shoba's thoughts.
The key moment for me is whenShoba comes home from the hospital and destroys their joint possessions.
I wonder if in their little ritual each night, either one of them expected the other to admit to blaming themselves or each other for the loss. It seemed to be something that went unspoken but understood throughout the story and maybe if one of them had admitted it, they might have been able to work through it.
I loved the story, it was a strong opener. Might be my favorite of the three.
>6 Divasin: I also thought they were unsuited. Can't remember, does the author indicate how long they were married, how they met? I got the feeling that they didn't know each other all that well.
page 10/11 "their first meeting, four years earlier at a lecture.."
and from page 15/16 "Shoba had cooked him a ten-course dinner just for him"
for their first anniversary.
All Shukumar can do is whine to a bartender about receiving a sweater vest for their third anniversary.
page nos. from my e-book
I'm not a big fan of contemporary slice-of-life fiction, but I found the story engaging enough to finish. The characters felt real, although I didn't find myself wanting to know more about them. I generally like stories better if I feel I was entertained or I feel I learned something about life in the way that fiction does best. I didn't feel that either had happened for me. I was left not really understanding how their relationship got to where it was. Not every relationship where a miscarriage occurs ends in a breakup, so what made it happen here? I would have liked to have learned and understood that. As it was I thought I understand a bit of where Shukumar was, but for me Shoba was a blank unfathomable character.
When a book is so acclaimed as to have won a Pulitzer prize, I feel like I should keep looking until I find what remarkable thing about a book warranted such an award. Maybe I will need to read more of the stories before a "get" what makes the book remarkable. In the meantime, I'll look forward to the clear and detailed writing of Lahiri's next story.
But that's the nature of stories like this. When things are spelled out, readers are free to read between the lines and not everyone will read it the same way.
I read mostly literary realism and, when done well, as Lahiri has here, it makes me think, question my own biases and preconceived notions. Usually, though, this requires a closer reading than with other fictional genres. But, the payoff, for me, is always worth it.
I saw Shoba's response to the trauma as clinical dissociation -- a sort of numbness, detachedness, etc., to defend against more hurting. That shutting-out included her relationship with Shukumar and her not wanting to know more about the baby.