The Namesake is a novel by Pulitzer prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri. Set in late 20th century New England and New York City, it is a coming of age story of the Ganguli family, an immigrant family from India. Gogol Ganguli is hastily named for a Russian writer, and we see how this family decision effects the way he lives his life. We also see the impact moving to America has had on the rest of the family. We see the family develop through births, deaths, marriage, and divorce.
Lahiri has a wonderfully fluid and descriptive prose style that is warm and genuine. Her descriptions of the smallest details throughout the story lead the reader to believe that she has experienced this rich story herself. Her characterizations are rich, and by the end of the story, the reader knows the characters as well as the author must.
Lahiri switches from character to character to view the story and timeline from each person’s perspective. One criticism is that we do not fully understand each character's reaction to some of the events in the story. For example, we do not see Gogol mother’s reaction to pitfalls in his life. One can imagine the emotions any mother would have, and yet, Lahiri does not describe these reactions.
I am greatly looking forward to reading more by this author. I have her story collection, Interpreter of Maladies (for which she won the 2000 Pulitzer) on my list of 100 books for the Fill-in-the-Gaps project. I also now plan to read Unaccustomed Earth as well because I have heard that it is even better than this one.
This book review is also on my blog Reading and Writing about It.