The Namesake

The Namesake

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Debbie Weiss: This is a beautifully written book about the immigrant experience of the Ganguli family. Ashoke and Ashima have an arranged marriage in Calcutta. Shortly thereafter, they move to Cambridge, Massachusettes where Ashoke is a graduate student in engineering. Ashima has difficulty adjusting to life in America and longs for her family left behind in India. She soon becomes pregnant and is thrilled to give birth to a healthy boy, whom they name Gogol.

Like most children of first generation parents, Gogol is a fully assimilated American child and has difficulty accepting the "limitations" of the immigrant family life. One of the most frustrating and embarrassing aspects of his Indian roots is his name --- "Gogol." The young man grows up, graduates from college and moves away to New York. He has various relationships with women but ultimately ends up marrying a young Bengali woman that he grew up with. It is not an arranged marriage, but is a "comfortable" marriage since both young adults share a common upbringing and customs, etc.

Over time, Gogol is able to define his place in America. His marriage fails, but he becomes confident in himself as he succeeds as an architect. He is ultimately able to merge his Indian traditions with his American customs so that he can feel comfortable in his place in society.
Rating: ****

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