The title of Jhumpa Lahiri's ferociously good new collection of stories tells you what to expect: Unaccustomed Earth (Knopf). As in her previous works, such as her acclaimed novel The Namesake, Lahiri is interested in the strangeness of our lives, in the gaps between who we thought we'd be and who we are, where we're born and where we end up. The Bengali characters who populate these eight stories all have one foot in two camps. Even those, like the beautiful Sang in "Nobody's Business," who have no sentimentality about their birth culture and have embraced Western customs feel the weight of the past. In exquisitely attuned prose, Lahiri notes the clash between generations and the humor of these superambitious parents who want straight-A kids fit for contemporary American life but also want to arrange their marriage. Lahiri is emotionally precise about her characters and the way the world appears to them, especially in the superb "Hema and Kaushik," a trio of linked stories that achingly reveals how two very unlikely families end up under one suburban roof for a while, and how destiny entwines them forever. These are unforgettable people, their stories unforgettably well told.