Bharati Mukherjee's story "The Management of Grief" tells the story of an Indian woman living in Canada whose husband and two sons are killed in a plane explosion. Through a process of deciding what parts of her culture to accept or reject and what parts of Western culture to adopt or reject, she works past her grief and begins rebuilding her life.
Mukherjee published the story in The Middleman and Other Stories in 1988, and the collection of short stories about immigrant experiences in the West won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction that year. "The Management of Grief" is unique in the collection because it is the only story about immigrants in Canada.
Based on the 1985 terrorist bombing of an Air India jet occupied mainly by Indo-Canadians (Indian immigrants living in Canada)—about which Mukherjee and her husband wrote the nonfiction book The Sorrow and the Terror—"The Management of Grief" is part of Mukherjee's effort to understand and communicate that catastrophe and its meaning.
Culture gives a person her primary tools and strategies for dealing with such universal human experiences as grief, and the title of the story encapsulates its basic themes. It is a story about the kind of grief that any human experiences, but it highlights the difficulties faced by immigrants in another country, namely, how to negotiate conflicting cultural demands and expectations, yet still draw on the strengths of culture. Such a theme carries impact for the non-immigrant, too, who might want the freedom to reject inhumane elements of her own culture.