Unaccustomed Earth Summary

Unaccustomed Earth Summary

Here are the summaries for each story in this collection of short stories.

"Unaccustomed Earth"

This intergenerational story tells of a widower visiting his daughter in Seattle. Ruma, the daughter, has stopped working to take care of the home and family, but her father wonders if that's really the right choice. This story highlights the confusing tensions that exist in gender roles in immigrant communities.


MIT grad student Pranab from Calcutta sees a young girl named Usha with her Bengali mother, and he decides to make friends with them because he misses his homelands. He quickly becomes part of the family. The father of the family, Shyamal da, seems emotionally confused, and Pranab himself resonates with that confusion. This story centers around the idea that the two worlds, America and India, are so drastically different that it causes confusion and loneliness.

"A Choice of Accommodations"

Amit and Meg find themselves aloof and apart in their relationship, perhaps because the wedding they're attending is Amit's former love interest. He admits drunkenly that maybe he doesn't actually feel that much for Megan. They end up reconsumating their love regardless.

"Only Goodness"

Sudha and Rahul are going back to their parents house, and Rahul convinces Sudha to sneak some booze into the home so that they can have some fun, so she does. But later, Sudha learns that alcoholism might be a reason that Rahul isn't doing well at Cornell. He ends up not making it through school, but Sudha is thriving, more or less, with hopes of a good career and her engagement to Roger. Rahul lives with his parents working a job that isn't glamorous.

Rahul too becomes engaged, but the family is hesitant and unsure. At Sudha's wedding, he disgraces himself by drinking too much, and the story goes on to outline the difficult relationship between Rahul, a prodigal type character, and his more successful sibling, Sudha. Eventually, Rahul's thirst for alcohol drives a wedge between them.

"Nobody's Business"

Sangeeta, or Sang for short, is apparently very desireable, and she has to spend her time turning away suitors, even though she is with Farouk, the Egyptian. Her roommate, Paul gets a call from a woman named Deirdre while Sang is away, and also while the other roommate, Heather, is away. Paul learns that Farouk has taken Deirdre as his lover whenever he travels to Vancouver. Paul doesn't know how to tell Sang, so when she finds out, and when she learns that he already knew and failed to tell her, they have a falling out, but eventually, they resolve their conflict and confront Farouk together. Paul and Farouk get into a fight, but the police come and intervene.

Later, Paul learns that Farouk might have stayed with his mistress from Vancouver.

PART TWO: "Hema and Kaushik"

These next three short stories follow the story of childhood friends, Hema and Kaushik who reconnect later in life.

"Once in a Lifetime"

This is the story of their friendship as children, told through a letter from Hema to Kaushik. The story is about their two families and the bond they had due to their shared cultural background and shared struggles, but the two friends seem to be drifting.

"Year's End"

This section is from Kaushik's point of view and deals with the loss of his mother. After the death of his mother, the family moves on, but Kaushik turns away from his family and becomes a wanderer.

"Going Ashore"

Hema and Kaushik are in Italy and cross paths after 20 years without seeing each other. Hema is a professor, and she confesses an affair to Kaushik, but she's planning to settle down. Kaushik is now a successful photojournalist, and he's considering a move to work in corporate Hong Kong.

They fall in love, but before Hema can decide whether or not to move with him, he dies in the 2004 tsunami.

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