Susan's Reviews > The Namesake

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
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's review
Sep 29, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction-adult
Read in November, 2007

There are moments of simple beauty and poignancy in this book. There are also passages chronicling some of the more mundane details of domesticity that have a monotonous, obligatory feel to them, as if the author is no more than a jaded reporter covering a familiar beat. The former points will no doubt make up for the latter for many readers. The plot gently spins out the story of a Bengali couple, Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, and their eldest child Gogol, whose name reflects the contradiction of cultures and traditions that will define and complicate his life. When the author is fully engaged with her characters, they have so much life and are so vividly realized the reader feels like they could be sitting in the Ganguli's kitchen or they are a fly on the wall at one of Ashima and Ashoke's gatherings. Some of the most moving passages are those that focus on the relationship with Gogol and his father and the inner trials of Ashima, who leaves her home to start a new life with a husband she barely knows only to discover that when she can return permanantly, there are too many emotional attachments to the U.S. for her to consider it. Although the marriages in The Namesake seem to be lack the comfort of lasting, consistent companionship or much romance, what Lahiri has to say about identity and family is compelling, deeply felt, and in spite of its complexity, somehow comforting and satisfying.
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