selections from Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

solarium (n.)
a room fitted with extensive areas of glass to admit sunlight.
His wife, who had been most excited to see the Floating Market, slept even through dinner, for he remembered a meal in the hotel with only Romi and Ruma, in a solarium overlooking a garden, tasting the spiciest food he’d ever had in his life as mosquitoes swarmed angrily behind his children’s faces. (8)

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cruet (n.)
a small container for salt, pepper, oil, or vinegar for use at a dining table.
There was a handpainted cruet that had the word “olio” on its side for Ruma, and a marbled box for Adam, the sort of thing one might use for storing paper clips. (18)

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amnio (n.)
informal term for amniocentesis—the sampling of amniotic fluid using a hollow needle inserted into the uterus, to screen for developmental abnormalities in a fetus.
It would be another four weeks until the amnio, allowing them to learn the sex. (43)

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With the birth of Akash, in his sudden, perfect presence, Ruma had felt awe for the first time in her life. He still had the power to stagger her at times—simply the fact that he was breathing, that all his organs were in their proper places, that blood flowed quietly and effectively through his small, sturdy limbs. He was her flesh and blood, her mother had told her in the hospital the day Akash was born. Only the words her mother used were more literal, enriching the tired phrase with meaning: “He is made from your meat and bone.” It had caused Ruma to acknowledge the supernatural in everyday life. But death, too, had the power to awe, she knew this now—that a human being could be alive for years and years, thinking and breathing and eating, full of a million worries and feelings and thoughts, taking up space in the world, and then, in an instant, become absent, invisible. (46)

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I fell in love with Deborah, the way young girls often fall in love with women who are not their mothers. (69)

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barrette (n.)
a typically bar-shaped clip or ornament for the hair.
My mother insisted whenever there was a gathering that I wear one of my ankle-length, faintly Victorian dresses, which she referred to as maxis, and have party hair, which meant taking a strand from either side of my head and joining them with a barrette at the back. (69)

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“You never know,” Megan said. “A lot of women do things that are out of character on their wedding day.” (88)

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“That’s the problem with this country,” her mother said. “Too many freedoms, too much having fun. When we were young, life wasn’t always about fun.” (143)

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ayah (n.)
a native maid or nursemaid employed by Europeans in India.
Her ashes were tossed from a boat off the Gloucester coast that a coworker of my father’s, Jim Skillings, had arranged for, but her gold went back to Calcutta, distributed to poor women who had worked for my extended family as ayahs or cooks or maids. (257)

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He was reminded of his family’s moves every time he visited another refugee camp, every time he watched a family combing through rubble for their possessions. In the end, that was life: a few plates, a favorite comb, a pair of slippers, a child’s string of beads. (309)

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