The Namesake — Book Review

“You are still young, free.. Do yourself a favor. Before it’s too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late.”

Jhumpa Lahiri is talented, and there aren’t many writers out there who can match the literary skills she possesses — having won a Pulitzer along with Hemingway Award and New Yorker debut award in a very short span of time one is just left in awe of her stories she juggles with. “The Namesake” is one such story which talks of clash of cultures by taking us through the life of Ganguli family.

After Ashoke survives a train accident while holding the pages of Nikolai Gogol’s book in his hand, he’s soon wed to Ashima in a traditional Bengali wedding and together they move to America where Ashima finds it hard to reconcile with the American culture. Coming from the Bengali culture of sandals and saris, she finds herself lonely in this strange world. The waiting, long distance calls, a constant longing for home and alienation power this tale of cultural and generational clashes. Around the year 1960, Ashima gives birth to a baby boy — Gogol. Gogol grows up to be what his parents aren’t — a typical American boy who absolutely loathes the culture and the identity his parents have. It’s after he moves out, he gets rid of all the cultural expectations and changes his name from Gogol to ‘Nikhil’. He joins an Ivy league college, absorbs himself totally in the Americanness, dates Maxine which is when he starts questioning the roots he’s left behind himself.

Lahiri has created powerful characters. Ashoke’s story is one of success and hope. After nearly dying in a train crash, he carves his own success in an alien land. “Do I remind you of that night?” — “”You remind me of everything that followed”. Ashima holds on to the culture and the tradition, from a shy and lonely woman she becomes an independent lady who holds the family together with the thread of love.

Lahiri has crafted a tale which will keep you hooked. The story is beautiful and real — the shared tragedies between continents, the heartache of immigration, the togetherness of family and the intimacy of love. Jhumpa Lahiri has written a masterpiece we all should read.

Rating : 5/5



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I write about society with focus on Kashmir, I write book reviews and occasionally on the pop-culture of Kashmir. Pictures are mine unless specified otherwise.