Whereabouts by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri is a small gem of a book. Set in an unnamed Italian town, Lahiri delves into her unnamed character’s musings on the small things in her life. Chapters are short and are titled impersonally: “In the Office”, “In the Bookstore”, “In My Head”, to name a few. Each vignette reminds me of Edward Hopper’s painting, Nighthawks. Each place or individual is seen as a discreet thing without physical connection to any other person. Lahiri’s character shares her thoughts about each place and person, existentially musing on the topic. We hear only her voice.
There is a plot of sorts; the character does make some decisions about her future. But the joy of this book is in the descriptions of place and thought that encourages readers to stop and notice their own surroundings a little more poetically. I recommend this book to all who want to read lyrical writing, breathe, then look more closely at the world right in front of us, in our own spaces, in our own day-to-day lives. We, too, live lives as poetic and evocative as Lahiri’s unnamed thoughtful soul.
Book reviewed by Debbie Bandy, Neighborhood Reads Bookseller