“This Blessed House” Summary by Jhumpa Lahiri

This Blessed House Summary by Jhumpa Lahiri
“This Blessed House” Summary

“This Blessed House” is a short story by Jhumpa Lahiri from her 1999 collection Interpreter of Maladies. In the Amazon sample, you can read the forward and a lot of the first story, “A Temporary Matter”. “This Blessed House” tells the story of a newly married couple settling into their new house and preparing for an upcoming housewarming party. Here’s a summary.

“This Blessed House” Summary

In her new house, Twinkle finds an unopened bottle of vinegar and a porcelain figure of Christ in a kitchen cupboard. She shows them to her husband, Sanjeev, who’s marking the baseboards for painting. He says to throw them both away. Twinkle wants to cook with the vinegar and she thinks the statue is pretty.

Sanjeev notices he has to tell his wife obvious things. He says they’re not Christian. Twinkle agrees, knowing they’re Hindus, but places the statue on the mantle anyway, which needs dusting.

After a week, the undusted mantle is full of Christian paraphernalia found in the house. Sanjeev organizes his old engineering texts on a shelf. He’s thirty-three with a secretary and a dozen people working under him, and he’s being considered for vice president. He has fond memories of his college days.

Sanjeev finds the items silly and is surprised that Twinkle, whose taste is usually good, cares for them. She’s looking forward to finding even more.

It’s nearly a week before they find anything else—a large, rolled up poster of Christ behind a radiator. Twinkle wants to hang it up, but Sanjeev won’t have it. Twinkle says she’ll hang it in her study behind the door so people who come for the housewarming won’t see it.

Sanjeev listens to a Mahler symphony. He picks up some cigarette ash Twinkle dropped on the floor. From the bathroom, Twinkle calls the music boring.

Sanjeev goes to the bathroom to throw away the ashes. The mirror makes him think about his appearance—he’d like to look a bit manlier and a be a bit taller. He doesn’t like when Twinkle wears high heels. He remembers when they recently had dinner in Manhattan and, after some drinks, Twinkle made him dance on the sidewalk.

Twinkle is content with disorder and isn’t eager to work on the house. Coming home from the office, Sanjeev hears Twinkle on the phone with a friend from California talking about the Christian items she’s found. There’s a fish stew made with the found vinegar bubbling over on the stove.

Sanjeev doesn’t understand how Twinkle gets excited by the small things in life. After two months of marriage, he’s starting to get annoyed by some of her habits. They had known each other only four months before, having met through their parents at an acquaintance’s birthday party. They started talking on the phone and visiting. They married in India with hundreds of guests whom he barely knew.

Twinkle hasn’t swept the attic yet, but says she will. She sets the table. She doesn’t cook a lot, but this fish stew is unusually good. She make up the recipe and didn’t write it down. She says the house is blessed.

The housewarming party approaches. They’ve invited thirty of Sanjeev’s acquaintances from the office and people who used to invite him over in his single days. Twinkle doesn’t know anyone in the area besides an ex-boyfriend. She’s working on a master’s thesis at Stanford on a Irish poet.

Sanjeev picked out the house by himself before leaving for the wedding. He didn’t notice the Christian elements at the time.

“This Blessed House” Summary, Cont’d

The weekend before the party, while they both work on the yard, Twinkle discovers a Virgin Mary statue in an overgrown bush. She wants to display it on the lawn, but Sanjeev is against it. She finds a spot for it, while Sanjeev returns to bagging leaves. He has doubts about his marriage. He’s not sure if he loves Twinkle, even though she’s pretty, from a suitably high caste and is earning a master’s degree. He’s not sure if she loves him either. Sanjeev isn’t sure he knows what love is, but he knows it’s not being alone.

That evening while Twinkle’s in the bath, Sanjeev tells her he’s getting rid of the lawn ornament. She says she hates him and hastily puts on her bathrobe and walks to the foyer. She says he can’t make the decision himself and cries. He apologizes and they reach a compromise—the ornament will be placed in an alcove where it won’t be as visible.

Sanjeev prepares the refreshments and does most of the cleaning for the party while Twinkle sweeps, gets a manicure and pedicure, and picks up the samosas. Sanjeev is concerned what the guests will think about the mantel, but hopes they’ll be impressed with the house.

Guests start arriving and the house soon fill up. Someone mentions the ornament outside. Everyone brings presents, and Sanjeev is surprised by all the well-wishers. The guests say complimentary things about the house, Sanjeev, and Twinkle, who entertains everyone with jazz records and stories. Sanjeev has to explains many times that they aren’t Christian. A guest compliments Twinkle to Sanjeev and makes a joke about her name.

Twinkle tells the story of finding all the Christian items. This sets everyone off on a search of the house for more. Twinkle remembers they haven’t searched the attic yet. Everyone climbs up with only Sanjeev staying behind. There’s lots of activity and laughter from above.

It’s quiet below and Sanjeev thinks about having the house all to himself. He could strand everyone up in the attic and clear away everything he doesn’t like. Twinkle’s shoes are at the bottom of the ladder, so Sanjeev puts them in the bedroom.

He starts to feel dizzy and goes to lie down. The sight of Twinkle’s shoes gives him the old feeling he had about her. He anticipates how she’ll see the guests off and open the presents.

She descends the attic stairs carrying something with assistance. It’s a heavy, solid silver bust of Christ with a huge head, wearing one of the guest’s hat. She wants to put it on the mantel. He hates it, even though this item is much more dignified than everything else they’ve found. She says she’ll put it in her study later but he doesn’t believe her. It’s going to be on display always.

They head for the living room with Sanjeev carrying the massive silver bust, careful not to disturb the hat.

I hope this summary of “This Blessed House” by Jhumpa Lahiri was helpful.