Alien Nation

Two new books explore the outsider’s tale.


Perhaps no one conveys the modern immigrant’s sense of wistful drifting as evocatively as Jhumpa Lahiri, the British-born, American-raised Bengali writer who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for Interpreter of Maladies, a quietly devastating collection of short stories. Her second novel, The Lowland (Knopf), out September 24, follows Subhash and Udayan Mitra, once inseparable brothers divided in adulthood by both geography and ideology. While Udayan gets swept up in a violent political rebellion in Calcutta, Subhash surfaces in Rhode Island as a marine scientist, his lonely life precariously moored by a child he can’t fully claim as his own. Margaret Atwood, meanwhile, brings us a more overt tale of displacement with MaddAddam (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), debuting September 3. The final novel in her dystopian trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake, it follows the few human survivors of a man-made pandemic as they pair up with bioengineered quasi-people to stave off a variety of vicious foes. Dizzyingly creative, with deep satirical roots, it’s classic Atwood: weird and wild.

Photo: Stuart Tyson