Jhumpa Lahiri's beautifully refined, slender third novel, Whereabouts, immerses readers in the captivating orbit of an unnamed narrator as she wanders alone through the Italian city she calls home. Consisting of short, elegant vignettes, there is a hypnotic quality and melancholy hum to the flow of the character's days as she walks to her job in academia, eats at her favorite trattoria, swims at the public pool, bumps into an ex-lover at the bookstore and pays guilt-inducing visits to her mother.
The author's fascination with identity, alienation and belonging are recurring themes in her fiction (The Lowland; The Namesake; the Pulitzer-winning collection Interpreter of Maladies), and Whereabouts is no exception. Lahiri's graceful writing explores the protagonist's voyeuristic tendencies, her craving for solitude and her wistfulness over not attaining conventional standards of success. Along the way readers experience a vivid sense of her days and the people she encounters, whether strangers, friends or shopkeepers. She ruminates over a lonesome childhood and reveals her attraction to a married man with whom she shares a "chaste, fleeting bond."
Whereabouts gently concludes with a new beginning for the middle-aged narrator, a fresh chapter yet to be written and a farewell to her "urban cocoon." Originally published to critical acclaim in Italian, under the title Dove mi trovo (Where I Find Myself) and translated into English by Lahiri herself, the scenes in Whereabouts weave together to form a profoundly intimate story of the delicate interplay between one's exposed outer self, the person one reveals to others, and the shaded complexity of one's inner life. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer