Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. I have always admired her seemingly effortless ability to give voice to the immigrant experience. So when news broke of the release of her latest novel, TheLowland, I could not wait to get my hands on it. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
The year is 1967. An uprising takes place in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal, India. Nine adults and two children are killed when police forces open fire on a group of peasants protesting feudal land policies, and so the Naxalite movement is born. This is the backdrop of the world in which Subhash and Udayan Mitra come of age.
Born just fifteen months apart, brothers Subhash and Udayan are inseparable as children. But as the years go by, their interests begin to diverge. Subhash, the older and more cautious of the two, immerses himself in his studies, maintaining his distance from the burgeoning radical leftist Naxalite movement and eventually leaving his native Calcutta to pursue graduate studies in oceanography in Rhode Island. Udayan remains at home, becoming a high school teacher and getting swept up in the fervor of the increasingly militant Communist movement. When tragedy strikes the family and leads Subhash back to India to pick up the pieces, what follows is a testament to the innate bonds of brotherhood.
What makes Lahiri so successful as a writer is her masterful ability to lay bare the complexities of human nature, and in The Lowland, she is at it again, moving across time and space and points of view to weave a moving tale of love, loss, and loyalty that spans two continents and four generations. As in her earlier works, Lahiri uses her simple, understated style of writing to explore the intricacies of the relationships between her main characters, and with good reason, for it is these relationships that form the core of the book. From the relationship between Subhash and Gauri, who flees Calcutta for the US in order to be free of the shackles of widowhood, to the relationship between Gauri and daughter Bela, each combine to reveal a portrait of a family shattered by tragedy.
The Lowland is a story marked by stark contrasts, from the Subhash's cautious demeanor Udayan's carefree, adventurous spirit and from the enveloping silence of Rhode Island to the noisy chaos of Calcutta. And what offers a better study in contrasts than the combination of caramel and sea salt in these salted caramel brownies?
SALTED CARAMEL BROWNIES
For the brownies
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 large eggs
- Cooking spray
For the drizzle
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk, divided
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Preheat oven to 350°F.
To prepare brownies, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, brown sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir well. Combine butter and eggs. Add butter mixture to flour mixture; stir to combine. Pour batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan.
To prepare topping, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add powdered sugar; stir until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over cooled brownies. Let stand 20 minutes or until set.
To prepare drizzle, combine 2 tablespoons milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at high for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring after 20 seconds. Stir just until smooth; drizzle over caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt; let stand until set.
Cut into squares and serve.
Adapted from Cooking Light