The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake“In so many ways, his family’s life feels like a string of accidents, unforeseen, unintended, one incident begetting another.” … “And yet these events have formed Gogol, shaped him, determined who he is. They were things for which it was impossible to prepare but which one spent a lifetime looking back at, trying to accept, interpret, comprehend. Things that should never have happened, that seemed out of place and wrong, these were what prevailed, what endured, in the end.”

The Namesake begins with the birth of Gogol Ganguli, the son of Ashima and Ashoke, a couple united by an arranged marriage in their home country of India and living abroad in the U.S. as Ashoke finishes his doctorate degree. Gogol becomes the central focus of the novel as he grows up torn between two cultures – the American one where he thinks he is most comfortable and the one full of Bengali friends who serve as stand-in family for his parents who desperately miss their family and home country.

The book is written largely in prose and narrative with less dialogue. I usually am not as engaged in a book like that, but The Namesake had me enthralled, albeit inexplicably, from the beginning. Lahiri spends a great deal of ink on Indian customs, traditions and lifestyles that give the reader insight into the struggles of a life lived abroad.

While I would not call this a “feel-good” story, I did enjoy the trials and triumphs of the Ganguli family as told over a 30-year span of time and would recommend this book.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Sandi Hauenstein
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Book Recommended by a Friend

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