The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Having come across many references to this book of late, I was more than faintly intrigued when I spotted this one at the very back of my uncle’s bookshelf. He told me to go for it with low expectations, but how could I? The work of a Pulitzer Prize winning author, I had huge expectations from this one.

It certainly didn’t disappoint. The book is a peek into the life of an Indian-American family. The new bride, Ashima Ganguli, lands in America, far removed from her bustling hometown in Calcutta and initially, she finds it hard to adjust to life in a foreign land with a culture so starkly different from hers. With the birth of her two children, Gogol and Sonia, she gradually eases into the role of an Indian-American mother. The children, meanwhile, identify more with America than India.

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The book traces the family’s life, the people they meet, how they cope with their dual identities and the constant struggle the parents face in deciding how best to bring up their children.

It is an eye-opener of a book, to put it mildly. For living out your life in a foreign land, without the reassuring presence of the people close to you, is never an easy choice to make. And those who do, are constantly assailed by thoughts of those they have left behind, all they have given up in their dream for a better life.

A warm and engaging piece of work, Jhumpa Lahiri draws you into her setting with ease. It’s, above all, a comforting novel that will make you deliberate on the important things in life. A sense of completeness is apparent, since the author manages to convey the myriad emotions that exist in a family such as the Gangulis.

While the beginning few pages are needlessly drawn out, that remains the only blemish in an otherwise very satisfactory read! A film adaptation of the novel, directed by Mira Nair, starring Sean Penn and Irrfan Khan was also released.

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