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Publisher's Summary

The Namesake follows the Ganguli family through its journey from Calcutta to Cambridge to the Boston suburbs. Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli arrive in America at the end of the 1960s, shortly after their arranged marriage in Calcutta, in order for Ashoke to finish his engineering degree at MIT. Ashoke is forward-thinking, ready to enter into American culture if not fully at least with an open mind. His young bride is far less malleable. Isolated, desperately missing her large family back in India, she will never be at peace with this new world. Soon after they arrive in Cambridge, their first child is born, a boy. According to Indian custom, the child will be given two names: an official name, to be bestowed by the great-grandmother, and a pet name to be used only by family. But the letter from India with the child's official name never arrives, and so the baby's parents decide on a pet name to use for the time being. Ashoke chooses a name that has particular significance for him: on a train trip back in India several years earlier, he had been reading a short story collection by one of his most beloved Russian writers, Nikolai Gogol, when the train derailed in the middle of the night, killing almost all the sleeping passengers onboard. Ashoke had stayed awake to read his Gogol, and he believes the book saved his life. His child will be known, then, as Gogol.
Lahiri brings her enormous powers of description to her first novel, infusing scene after scene with profound emotional depth. Condensed and controlled, The Namesake covers three decades and crosses continents, all the while zooming in at very precise moments on telling detail, sensory richness, and fine nuances of character.
©2003 Jhumpa Lahiri (P)2003 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a Division of Random House, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"This production is a treat for the sheer combination of Lahiri's striking, often enchanting descriptions and Choudhury's graceful rendering of them." ( Publishers Weekly)
"This poignant treatment of the immigrant experience is a rich, stimulating fusion of authentic emotion, ironic observation, and revealing details." ( Library Journal)
"This is a fine novel from a superb writer." ( The Washington Post)
"An effortless and self-assured bildungsroman that more than delivers on the promise of... Interpreter of Maladies." ( Book Magazine)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Diana - Audible on 04-16-12

My favorite book - in print and audio

When I do recommend The Namesake to anyone who’ll listen to me gush, I always warn them that “not a lot happens” in the book. But more importantly, I tell them that it doesn’t matter - Jhumpa Lahiri is that good. She can make the everyday actions of a young man finding his way in the world as captivating as any whodunit with her simply gorgeous prose. This is a novel about real life – about love and family, culture and assimilation – and is just a beautiful story well-told by Lahiri and narrator Sarita Choudhury, who offers the perfect blend of Indian and American accents in her performance.

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23 of 23 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Everett on 03-17-04

Coming of age story

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story about two generations of Bengali-Americans. Gogol, the main character, is born in the United States to Bengali immigrants. We follow him as he grows into a young man. As he grows up fails to understand the traditions of his Bengali parents. He even rejects the name they gave him. He is thoroughly American, but as he matures, his acceptance of his parents, their community, and his heritage grows. In many ways, the theme is similar to that in some of Amy Tan's writings about Chinese immigrants and their American born children. The difference is that the reconciliation between elder and adult child comes not through voyages or fantastic stories, but through the normal, believable experiences of parents and children living in the U.S. The narration is superb, with each character having a uniquely identifying voice and/or accent.

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11 of 11 people found this review helpful

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