Desired Fish of Greater Boston: “Interpreter of Maladies” Review

Kerry Dooley Young
5 min readJan 28, 2024

Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story leads me to think about assumptions, providing a connection to an overlooked U.S. artist

La Farge, John. ”The Fish” (or “The Fish and Flowering Branch”) c. 1890 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Author photo

For years I had a false assumption.

I realized this only when I recently borrowed Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Interpreter of Maladies” from the library. I believe I first read this 1999 book not long after Lahiri published it. It’s a wonderful collection of stories.

One of its characters had stuck in my mind for decades.

Mrs. Sen is the wife of a math professor at one of Boston’s universities. She is terribly homesick and lonely, having recently arrived from India. That’s likely why she takes a job watching an 11-year-old boy named Eliot for a few hours on weekday afternoons while his mother works.

Mrs. Sen longs for Calcutta. She complains one day to Eliot’s mother about the quality of fish available in her new home compared to old one. In Calcutta, “people ate fish first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, as a snack after school if they were lucky,” Mrs. Sen says.

“They ate the tail, the eggs, even the head. It was available in any market, at any hour, from dawn until midnight… All you have to do is leave the house and walk a bit, and there you are.”



Kerry Dooley Young

Professional journalist writing for fun on Medium. Digs kindness, art, food, cities, democracy and business. Home base is D.C., but I do like to wander.