Short readers of the world owe a great debt to The New Yorker. In a true show of generosity they make many of the wonderful short stories they have published available for anyone to read for free on their web page. Several of of the stories of Jhumpa Lahiri can be read there. I have previously posted on her "Heaven and Hell" and very recently on "Sexy". I loved both of these stories. I read a third of her stories "Once in a Life Time" yesterday.
Like almost all of her work, "Once in a Life Time" deals with highly educated Bengali immigrants to the USA. Most of the men in these stories are engineers. The women are divided among stay at home mothers dedicated to preserving the traditions of their culture and modern career women. The characters in the story are very driven to succeed and often do indulge in conspicuous consumption to demonstrate their wealth. The children are rapidly Americanized.
To be very brief in this post (I hope!) "Once Upon a Life Time" is narrated by the early teenage daughter of a couple. Her parents have been friends for many years with another couple who used had left the USA and returned to India. Years later they decide to return to the USA as the man has landed a very good job. They ask if they can stay with their old friends until they get settled and find a house of their own. The couple from Indian bring with them their teenage son.
The story is about the relationship of the couples and of the two teenagers. It is a story of perception and confusion. Lahiri's portrayal of the relationships in the story are really well done. There is a tragic ending to the story that will powerfully impact many readers of the story.
"Once in a Life Time" can be read HERE