Sunday, August 16, 2009

47. THE NAMESAKE - Jhumpa Lahiri


Ashoke and Ashima are Indian immigrants in America, trying to balance the life that they left with the life they now lead (with Christmas decorations and trips to the school). The main character is Gogol, their son, who had to be named before being allowed out of the hospital after his birth. Their custom is to have a family name and a "good" name. Gogol's name becomes both, which begins the novel with the tension of something never being completed or perfect - simply in between.

Eventually, Gogol changes his name to Nikolai, believing it easier to live as an American, yet never truly feeling as if he fits in. Later, his father tells him the reason he was named Gogol, which only increases the feeling of alienation and solitude.

As the reader follows Gogol throughout his life - a paragraph that covers a year, twenty pages to cover a date - it is apparent that this story is not really about Gogol at all. It is about finding a way to bring two lives together, two cultures closer, and/or two understandings amended. It is about finding the medium that makes one, if not happy, at least content.

With such depth in the first half of the book, I expected the same from the rest, but the author leaves it to the reader's imagination. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about this novel, but I did appreciate the extensive depth of detail.

3.5 out of 5.0 Russian Bears.

8 comments:

Leslie in Adams Morgan said...

it' been a while since I read this book so I don't have the characters names still in my thoughts, but did you notice how the author gave readers insight into the Indian characters but not the American ones?

For example, you never found out very much about the daughter's inner life (she was "American" whereas Gogol was not), ... nor did you find out anything about Gogol's American girlfriend motivations, thoughts, etc. ...

Leslie in Adams Morgan said...

I also liked the way the mother's attitude changed over the years. In the beginning she was very traditional. Gogol couldn't hold hands with his girlfriends when he brought them home. In the end, the unmarried daughter shares a room with her boyfriend when they come to visit. Lahiri gave us a lot of information about her characters in a very subtle manner.

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

have not read morning and can't talk about it. but i enjoyed your review. thanks

Stefania said...

I liked this novel but it's true that sometimes it was strange how the characters went through years in a paragraph and how many details were given for a single event. They say that Lahiri is better at writing short stories but I prefer her novel somehow. Maybe it's because I had more time to become familiar with the characters. I became very fond of Gogol by the end of the book.

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

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Please email mypalamyATgmailDOTcom for information about YOUR Book Blogger Appreciation Week nomination.

Congratulations!!

Kristin Dodge said...

Thanks, Bethany... I received the information. I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy!

Bastab said...

I do agree with your view.

You can go through my review on ‘Between The Lines’: http://unpublisho.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/book-review-the-namesake-by-jhumpa-lahiri/

Thanks.

Canada said...

This book is for anyone who feels different or like a foreigner in any way, be it because of their name, religious practice, weight, age, class, etc. Other than an odd ball name, I share no commonality with the protagonists of the book yet was very affected by each character's situation.