Although The Namesake, a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, is a New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner, it was not until reading through Johanna’s 2013 booklist on her blog (My Home Tableau) that this book first drew my interest. After further examination, I saw it was on a number of other reading lists, as well. So I put it on my list of “14 Books I Plan to Read in 2014.”
I am always fascinated by stories that portray family life in other cultures. But this book is more than that, tracing the story Ganguli family’s attempt to live as Indian expatriates in the snowy land of Massachusetts, and the subsequent struggles and triumphs that their son, Gogol, experiences as he tries to distance himself from his parents traditions while making a name for himself as an American.
Through grief and loss, love and broken hearts, travel and neighborhood life, distance and familiarity, Gogol’s life is a long quest for finding his own identity. There is no triumphant, happy ending to be found in the culmination of his life’s circumstances, but there is resolution in the thread that follows his search for identity. The underlying thread of his identity is also linked to his unique name, something that he feels has plagued him all of his life.
I enjoyed going into this book with little knowledge of the storyline; although, with most books that I enter as such, it takes a few chapters to really “get into” the book. Beyond the main plot, this book holds many valuable messages, some of which would be: the struggles the children as immigrants face, the struggles immigrants face, the ease with which language and cultural traditions can be lost within just one generation, and the different manifestations of family love, even within cultures that appear the same from the outside.
Have you read The Namesake? What did you think?