The Namesake is about the Ganguli family who emigrates from India to America. Shortly after their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima move to Cambridge, Massachusetts so that Ashoke can pursue a degree in engineering from MIT. Ashima has a difficult time transitioning to life in America and longs for home and her family.
When their son is born, the task of naming him becomes complicated when they are forced to name the boy before leaving the hospital. Traditionally in their culture, an elder would name the child. Finally they decide on Gogol, a Russian writer, in memory of a catastrophe that happened to Ashoke years before.
Gogol Ganguli struggles with his name throughout his high-school years. In addition, Gogol struggles with his identity. He is torn between his parents Indian heritage, which he doesn’t fully understand because of being born and raised in America.
I was entranced with Lahiri’s description of the Indian culture and I was completely drawn into the conflict between Gogol and his parents. It really made me appreciate the difficulties emigrants are faced with when they leave their homeland. Lahiri is fantastic at making everyday struggles look incredibly beautiful while also heartbreaking. She paints a vivid story and her writing is tight.
I found myself getting teary at many parts of this book because of how connected I became with the different characters. The message of the book, how we come to define ourselves, is extremely powerful and thought provoking. I also recommend Lahiri’s collection of short stories that won the Pulitzer Prize, Interpreter of Maladies.
Parent’s guide: There is some mature sexual content in The Namesake.
Attack of the Books! is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, a month long quest to post every day. Each day should match a letter of the alphabet. Today is the letter N (as in The Namesake).