Monday, April 7, 2014

[Review] The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Publisher: Mariner Books
Publishing Date: 2003
291 Pages
Format: paperback, purchased


Jhumpa Lahiri's debut story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, took the literary wold by storm when it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. Fans who flocked to her stories will be captivated by her best-selling first novel, now in paperback for the first time. The Namesake is a finely wrought, deeply moving family drama that illuminates this acclaimed author's signature themes: the immigrant experiences, the clash of cultures, the tangled ties between generations.

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of an arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Ashoke does his best to adapt while his wife pines for home. When their son, Gogol, is born, the task of naming him betrays their hope of respecting old ways in a new world. And we watch as Gogol stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs.

With empathy and penetrating insight, Lahiri explores the expectations bestowed on us by our parents and the means by which we come to define who we are.

My Review

This book has been sitting on my shelf for quite a while... probably well over a year. But every time I picked it up, I got sidetracked and found something else to read. I finally decided that I was going to start - and finish - it. I read it within about 4-5 days, which may seem pretty fast, but lately, that's somewhat slow for me. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I think it's a good read, but it's not something that I would pick up and read again.

I really liked learning about the lives of Ashoke and Ashima; how they grew up in India, traveled to the US, and adjusted to the American lifestyle. I like learning and reading about different cultures, how they live and how being emerged in a new life can be incredibly challenging. The struggles they faced while attempting to adjust and while trying to name Gogol were very well portrayed. They really wanted to keep the tradition of having a grandmother name the baby, but when that wasn't possible, they had to choose something else.

We mostly follow Ashoke, Ashima and Gogol's life throughout this book, and I wish I could have read about Sonia's perspective growing up as an Indian-American. I found it fascinating getting the perspective if Gogol, how he felt about his name, and how he almost felt ashamed about his parents and their culture. It seems as though the older he got, the more he came to accept his culture, his background and him family, but it must be incredibly difficult feeling like that as you grow up and being a parent watching your child stray from his culture. Overall, I thought this book was good, but like I said, nothing that I would probably reread.


  1. This book has sadness in it, but it doesn't have anything that is over-the-top tragic either, and that's another thing I like. The family has some disagreements but they still love each other and are close. The generations have things they don't understand about each other but there are also no door-slamming arguments, no one gets disowned, and no one gets in a fight right before someone dies either. In that way I think it was a realistic portrayal of intergenerational relationships in a lot of families - in fact it reminds me a lot of my own family.

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    1. I agree; I think it's very realistic because there aren't any huge fights or problems. Thanks for stopping by!! I love meeting new people so thanks for seeing my little bookish corner of the world.