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I'm not a big reader of short stories; I tend to lean toward novels when I need a fiction fix. But this year, I read more than my usual share. Amid the Bouchercon conference of mystery writers, I read Edgar Allan Poe's detective stories and Hardly Knew Her, a new collection by Laura Lippman. Nancy turned me onto Neil Gaiman, so I looked for his work in Poe’s Children, a horror anthology that also includes tales from Peter Straub and Stephen King.

But my favorite of 2008 is Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri; it's the latest from the author of The Namesake. The title story illustrates her power as a writer. Hardly anything happens, but we're treated to a three-generation tale that touchingly explores  parent-child relationships, the death of a loved one and the dull ache of assimilation.

And though her language is spare and unerstated, there are many graceful turns. Here's one: "She was grateful for the opportunity to sit on the porch ... listening to the vast breeze work its way through the treetops, a grander version of the way [her son] used to sigh when he was a baby, full of contentment, in the depths of sleep."

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I haven't read Namesake or her first short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, but I'm a fan.

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