#08 ~ The Namesake

February 22, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Parenting Dilemmas, Reading, Religion | 5 Comments
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The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

It took me a long while to read this book. Like the Life of Pi, it is heady. Many of the other books I’ve read recently have been so as well. Comparitively, the Janet Evanovich novels are fun and soap opera-ish. I much preferred to read those. In fact, I read the second and third installments of the Stephanie Plum novels in the middle of The Namesake. I can’t say if my hesitance to read this book was because of timing or because the book didn’t hold my interest. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to tell.

The Namesake is the story of an American born Indian. Due to a letter from India that was lost in the mail, his parents named him Gogol, after one of the father’s favorite Russian writers. Over time, Gogol grows up and begins to despise his name. He has it legally changed. This change and his attempts to free himself from his parent’s culture are futile. He cannot be happy for long immersed in his American-Indian life or in a more fully American life.

There is a great deal of detail about his parents early marriage and about three of Gogol’s romances. The ending, by comparison, was glossed over and encapsulated in his mother’s final Christmas Eve party for the Indian-Bangladeshi family she created for herself in the United States. It seems as though Gogol’s mother and sister finally come to terms with their lives and how their cultural identity helps to form their journeys. Gogol finds a book of his namesake’s writing in his room. The book was given to him by his father. He rescues it from being donated and begins to read the book. Does he begin his journey toward acceptance of his life and what he cannot control? That is the impression given. I’m mostly glad that I’ve not been invited to take that journey with him.

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