Title: Once in a Lifetime
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
In: Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lahiri)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Family, Race
Dates read: 19th October 2019
Format: Short story
5th sentence, 74th page: I was still very much a child, while you, just three years older, had already eluded your parents’ grasp.
She can remember the first time she saw him. And the last. It wasn’t long, but it was a once in a lifetime experience. One she will never forget.
I thought that this was going to be a bit of a love story. From the title to the first statements of I remember when I first saw you… there was something incredibly romantic about this tale. It didn’t quite turn out that way. But there was still that beautiful, bittersweet nostalgia within the story. One that left me feeling happy and complete when I finally finished this tale.
I’ve mentioned it before after reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories, but I have very little experience with other cultures. In particular, I have almost no experience with Indian immigrants. But I do have experience with having a sick parent, and the difference in the story that is told here and my own was really interesting. It made moments that are so relatable also completely alien. It lent to that feeling of bittersweet memories being relived with a nice dash of love.
I think everyone has that person in their past that made some kind of difference. That you remember with fondness, but didn’t necessarily have much of a relationship with. For me, as with this narrator, it was an older boy that just fascinated me for years. There are crystal clear moments of memories that helped to shape who I am, but they also are happily in the past. I like that this story took that feeling and made it something so pure. It isn’t something that needs to be carried into the future, but it is wonderfully remembered in the past.