“But she has gathered that Americans, in spite of their public declarations of affection, in spite of their miniskirts and bikinis, in spite of their hand-holding on the street and lying on top of each other on the Cambridge Common, prefer their privacy.”

The beginning of the novel finds Ashima pregnant and in a new country with only her husband, who she is with because of an arranged marriage, for company. This quote illustrates that Ashima has a strong desire for connection and community. She wants her life to consist of more than just herself and her husband. Her American neighbors, however, are too insular for her to establish her own community in her new home. This moment establishes both Ashima’s discomfort in her new country and the perception of Americans that individuals from other countries possess. On the surface, Ashima views Americans as welcoming and boisterous people. Underneath the surface, however, there is an air of protection and exclusion. 

“Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity of from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.”

In Chapter 3, Ashima expresses a new facet of her discomfort about being Bengali in America. Not only does she not feel welcomed by her American neighbors, but Ashima goes so far as to express feeling like an attraction. The fact that she is Bengali causes white Americans to be very aware of her presence. Ashima, who wants nothing more than to establish herself as a member of a community, is overwhelmed by her inability to blend in. This quote illustrates Ashima’s realization that she will always be a curiosity to her American neighbors. 

“They are not willing to accept, to adjust, to settle for something less than their ideal of happiness.”

In Chapter 12, after the loss of her husband, her son’s divorce, and her daughter’s new engagement, Ashima reflects on the unhappiness of others. Ashima suggests in this quote the importance of being open to life’s changes and opportunities. Moving to America was not Ashima’s idea of the perfect life. Neither, of course, was the loss of her husband, or moving out of her long-time home. However, through openness to new opportunities, Ashima is able to find happiness with her family and in her new ability to spend time in both America and India. Ashima believes that by limiting oneself to a single idea of happiness, one ensures disappointment. Ashima, by the novel’s final chapter, has experienced a lot of disappointment. This quote, however, proves her resilience.