Since beginning my blo log in July 2009 I have read and posted on eight short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri as well as her recent excellant novel, Lowlands. Most of her work focuses on highly educated India emigrants living in America, often in Boston or New York City. Her work deals with the difficulty of maintaining one's cultural identity while striving for material success in a new country. Often her work centers on the children of first generation emigrants.
I was very happy to find in the recently and temporarily opened archives of The New Yorker a story by Lahiri I had not yet read. "Year's End" easily lived uo to my high expectations. The narrator is a college student attending Swathmore, an elite college. His father emigrated from Bombay along with his mother. He was born in The U. S. His mother died just a few years after he was born and he can hardly recall her. One day he gets a call from his father,fifty-five and a successful businessman, letting him know he is back from a family visit to India. The father shocks him by telling him that he has remarried and his new wife and her two young daughters are with him. The marriage was arranged by his family, just as that of his parents was. The father tries to say his family coerced him into it but the son knows nothing would have happened had he not wanted it. His new step mother, a widow, is twenty years younger than his father and has brought her two young daughters with her. Christmas is coming soon and the father wants to be sure his son, an only child, will be home. Of course the son is shocked.
Meeting your new step-mother and much younger step sisters is a a very emotional minefield for the son. He tries hard not to hold this against his father,not to see it as a betrayal of his mother. He tries to see the girls as his sisters and it is clear they desperately want him as a big brother. He ends up taking revenge on them in a heartbreaking way.
"Year's End" is a very rich, subtle highly nuanced story. I have deliberately left out the just overwhelming second half of the story.
You can read this story here, as long as the archives are kept open.