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If you are looking for a way to better understand and help you connect to your family and cultural then The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is the book for you. Lahiri does a wonderful job of giving you a well thought out and organized story of a young boy named Gogol who grows up into a man while searching for his identity and dealing with family relationships.
review by gurpreet
This novel is a great fictional depiction of very real circumstances and the trials of being a first generation child in America. It shows how hard it is to be a young kid in the United States and trying to keep cultural traditions and values. The novel clearly depicts how there is always a constant struggle no matter how long one has been living in this country. This is a book about life, and life can sometimes be boring and at parts the book is slow but if you keep reading in the end you will get a great message out of it.
I would definitely recommend this book because it is a very well written novel. It is a very moving and inspiration story that becomes very memorable. The language she uses to express her thoughts is very well crafted. Lahiri really has a way of making the reader want to keep turning the page
I appreciate that an American audience might think they are learning a great deal about Bengali people, but Bengalis themselves can see the gaping holes in Lahiri's understanding. Bengalis like to think they are artistic and religious - these are the sorts of things that bring immigrant Bengalis together - and communities are usually formed for these reasons. The Bengalis in 'The Namesake' are one-dimensional - Bengali identity to them is only about the superficial things they have
The Book is beautiful. I am from India, and so I would say the story is so true. I like the novel so much that I chose this to be my Book Review in class as well as my Project......Go Gogol !
Overall, I enjoyed the book, though I felt it began and ended a bit sluggishly. The author has crafted a picture and story that seems to flow from a personal understanding of several cultures without focusing on only one, or writing from only one perspective.
Taken from a different angle
The most probable reaction to this book will likely be a focus on relationships. They are reasonably well-defined, and they are a bit more intricate than is often the case. The reader can easily understand the feelings of 3 of the 4 main characters, though Ashoke is a bit obscure.
I was most struck by the mother Ashima as a character, and by the relationship of Ashima and Ashoke as a picture. And, from those, I was driven to consider the state of immigration in the US today. There is such conflicted tension between the old and the new for immigrants. Many come here, and because of the vast freedoms granted Americans, cling fastly to the old cultures. Yet the children, and the breadwinner are thrust daily into American life, essentially becoming people vastly different from their 'origins.' Especially for the young people, the need to fit in was highlighted in this book.
That left Ashima in a very isolated situation. She still had a bit of connection to her husband, who seemed able to inhabit both worlds; however, the children of the story are completely, and almost thoroughly, American for the part of their lives that are 'lived' in the time of the novel.
I think immigration must have been simpler before fast, easy travel and instanteous communication, when people came here to seek better lives AND become Americans, and not just to accrue professional status, or simply a paying job. We consistently read about families of past times that were headed by parents who insisted their children assimilate, learn the language and customs, and were often embarassed by their own inability to speak English.
As someone actively tracing my own roots I can see a downside to each of those circumstances in the long term; but, looking from an empathetic and humanitarian view, this book says to me that creating a complete and fulfilling life requires one to dwell primarily in the present, even geographically and culturally.
I think of this book as reflecting an intricate relationship in a family originally from a culture quite different from that in the U.S. Of partiuclar significance is the relationship between Gogol (after reading the book it seemed to me that he would have after all liked to have been Gogol) and his father. The best thing is that throughout the book, this relationship is however not talked about or portrayed in an excessive manner - it is quite subtle and that is what makes it elegant. The last couple of pages are absolutely exquisite especially when Gogol recovers the book that his father had presented to him on his birthday.
The setting of the book starting from 1968 to the new millenium seamlessly transports the reader through the decades. Additionally, I am sure that quite a few Indians will be able to identify with the apparently limitless pot-lucks that seem to be a regular weekend feature no matter where one is this country. The description was quite humorous and stark at the same time.
Overall, I think it was absolutely unputdownable and quite a refreshing read. This is not a movie and what others might say about dragging a little bit, I think that the digressions only lent more flavor to the brew.
I can certainly understand how Americans of non-Indian descent can praise The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I am a Indian American and I saw many similarities between the characters and their experiences and my own family, however I do not think that it adequately describes the experiences of most of us (Indian Americans). Gogol and Moushumi seem too disconnected from their heritage, almost to the point of alienation. This may be a true depiction of some Indian Americans who have sought to create an identity apart from their parents, however I felt almost as if the narration is overly critical and offensive towards the Indian side and too exalting towards American culture, especially high-class society. The ending was a let down and overall the book left me feeling depressed in the end.
I think Jhumpa is a very good writer, I have read both her books. I was disappointed in the namesake. I, too have a similar background to Jhumpa. My parents moved here from Pakistan in the early 1970's, I grew up in New York, went to a woman's college in Massachusetts. It depressed me to learn that Gogol did not have any morals and values that our culture instills on us. This is what makes us different. I have never met someone like Mousoumi. She seemed too bizarrre to be raised by Indian parents. Maybe, I am living in a hole someone, maybe Indians have become so infiltered into this culture that they are having affairs and hold none of our parents traditions and values. I wish I could discuss this with Jhumpa myself.
This novel is very well writen; it is beautifully crafted. Readers who, like the narrator, are American-Born East Indians (hopefully, not confused!) will be able to realte very well, as this is a novel writen about the identity crisis faced by this category of individuals.