Thursday, September 26, 2013
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves.
A bookgroup choice that I am not sure I would have picked up on my own. It was an interesting read although not a "you have to read this" book. I felt (and my bookgroup concurred) that the story started well but got a bit lost and wandering in the middle. It went off it what I felt was the wrong direction of all the directions it could have gone.
It made an interesting discussion because of all the time periods and subject matter that was covered but this was also one of the faults of the book, as it kept wandering off the path of the most interesting part of the story.
The author got bogged down at times at what a lot of us felt were unnecessarily detailed descriptions of the scenery.
I would really give this a 3.5 but not quite a 4, as it was a worthwhile read but could have been a lot better.