Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, ‘The Namesake’ written by Jhumpa Lahiri is truly one of the bestselling novels that explain the Indian Diaspora in America. Simple in word, but yet so deep in meaning; this is one of the best ways that one can sum up this beautiful book.
The story describes for us, the life of a middle class newlywed Bengali couple from the 1960s who have decided to give up everything in their lives and move to the United States of America in order to create a better future for their children and their children’s children.
However, though they try to blend in with the other American citizens they still share their ties with the country they came from: India. This is clearly visible throughout the novel and specially emphasized when it comes to naming their first born son. Sadly, after being unable to follow their family traditions-when it comes to naming their son-due to unavoidable circumstances they decide to call him Gogol, after the famous Russian author Nikolai Gogol. But is this really the only reason they choose this name?
The novel revolves mainly around Gogol, right from birth until he is a well settled man who has seen a great deal of ‘life’. It describes his family and friends, his love life as well as his career. Being born and bred in the USA along with his sister Sonia, the novel shows us a comparison of two completely different types of Bengalis or Indians. One kind of people attached to their roots, customs and traditions and the other indifferent and as normal as any other Americans in the country.
The book is a next-to-real experience for those who do not have the privilege (or are too afraid) to leave their own country for another. It explains beautifully the transition of the typical Bengali or for that matter the Indian family who struggle to keep their roots alive while their children try their best to run away from it. It shows us the advantages as well as the disadvantages of moving to a foreign country and also the emotional outcomes of such episodes in our lives.
The style of writing catches your attention with flashbacks and flash forwards which is a common scenario throughout the story. The dialogue is flowing and the manner in which the story in narrated, many-a-time, leaves you wondering as to what is going to happen next.
Concealed within a beautifully written story is a heart-touching message on family ties which is beautifully illustrated throughout the novel. It describes how we long for people with who we share a common bond. Just as all the Bengali families got together for Dasera and just as the creative artists got together once in a while for a treat in the same way we too long to be with those similar to us.
Whether you read it as a piece of entertainment or if you read it because you have found a connection with it, the Namesake is sure to grab you by your emotions until the very last page. The book has also been created into a feature film but the true essence of the story can only be gained from reading.
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