The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri revolves around love, relationships of loss and political deaths and like her previous novels, is also about cultural amalgamations.
The novel begins in the 1970s in the flooded lowland of Tollygunge, Calcutta where two brothers, Udayan and Subhash grow up. Udayan is influenced by the Naxalite Movement in his college while Subhash goes on to pursue his studies at Rhode Island in the US.
Things take a drastic turn when the police gun down Udayan mercilessly for his involvement in Naxal activities. His parents then ostracise his wife, Gauri. Pitying Gauri, Subhash takes her back to Rhode Island. In the US, to distract herself from her grief and her pregnancy, Gauri immerses herself in university life, exercising her intelligence to the fullest.
Despite trying to bring a sense of normalcy in their lives by raising a family, and Gauri eventually even pursuing her doctorate with the encouragement of her professor; Udayan’s death is a spectre that still haunts the couple. Their relationship was always one of convenience rather than one of love. The truth of Bela’s (their daughter) parentage is a Damocles sword that particularly unnerves Subhash.
Its climactic revelation opens up a Pandora’s Box in all their lives, shattering any illusions of normalcy the couple might have harboured.