The Namesake

By Jhumpa Lahiri
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780395927212, 304pp.)

Publication Date: September 2003

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Hardcover

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Description

Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies established this young writer as one the most brilliant of her generation. Her stories are one of the very few debut works -- and only a handful of collections -- to have won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Among the many other awards and honors it received were the New Yorker Debut of the Year award, the PEN/Hemingway Award, and the highest critical praise for its grace, acuity, and compassion in detailing lives transported from India to America. In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail -- the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase -- that opens whole worlds of emotion.
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. The New York Times has praised Lahiri as "a writer of uncommon elegance and poise." The Namesake is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity.




About the Author

JHUMPA LAHIRI is the author of three books, most recently Unaccustomed Earth. Her debut collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and her work has been translated into twenty-nine languages.




Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. The Namesake opens with Ashima Ganguli trying to make a spicy Indian snack from American ingredients — Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts — but “as usual, there’s something missing.” How does Ashima try and make over her home in Cambridge to remind her of what she’s left behind in Calcutta? Throughout The Namesake, how does Jhumpa Lahiri use food and clothing to explore cultural transitions — especially through rituals, like the annaprasan, the rice ceremony? Some readers have said that Lahiri’s writing makes them crave the meals she evokes so beautifully. What memories or desires does Lahiri bring up for you? Does her writing ever make you “hunger”?  




Praise For The Namesake

This eagerly anticipated debut novel deftly expands on Lahiri's signature themes of love, solitude and cultural disorientation.
Harper's Bazaar

This poignant treatment of the immigrant experience is a rich, stimulating fusion of authentic emotion, ironic observation, and revealing details.
Library Journal

Lahiri's ... deeply knowing, avidly descriptive, and luxuriously paced first novel is equally triumphant [as Interpreter of Maladies]. Booklist, ALA

Jhumpa Lahiri expands her Pulitzer Prize-winning short stories of Indian assimilation into her lovely first novel, THE NAMESAKE. Vanity Fair

Lahiri weaves an intricate story of ... an Indian family in America. Their bumpy journey to self-acceptance will move you.
Marie Claire

[Lahiri] weaves an authentic tale of a Bengali family in Boston... [which] powerfully depicts the universal pull of family traditions.
Lifetime

The casual beauty of the writing keeps the pages turning.
Elle

...immaculately written, seamlessly constructed novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of INTERPRETER OF MALADIES.
Book Magazine

...remarkably assured first novel. Readers will find here the same elegant, deceptively simple prose that garnered so much praise for her short stories.
Bookpage

A debut novel that is as assured and eloquent as the work of a longtime master of the craft.
The New York Times

Gracefully written and filled with well-observed details.
People Magazine

...far more authentic and lavishly imagines than many other young writers' best work.
TimeOut New York

Lahiri is insightful on the complexities of foreignness.
Boston Magazine

graceful and wonderfully specific prose...A Entertainment Weekly

In the world of literature, Lahiri writes like a native.
The San Francisco Chronicle

generous, exacting portrait of the clash between cultural dictates and one man's heart.
Boston Globe

Astringent and clear-eyed in thought, vivid in its portraiture, attuned to American particulars and universal yearnings...memorable fiction.
Newsday

[Lahiri's] writing is assured and patient, inspiring immediate confidence that we are in trustworthy hands.
The Los Angeles Times

Achingly artful, Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel showcases her prodigious gifts.
The Baltimore Sun

Lahiri's inventive imagination and mellifluous prose makes her first novel simply wonderful...It's simply splendid.
Providence Journal

A fine novel from a superb writer The Washington Post

A delicate, moving first novel.
Time Magazine

A debut novel that triumphs in its breadth and mastery.
Star Ledger

The novel not only proves the author's ease with the longer form but clearly demonstrates her artistic sensibility.
News and Observer

...an accomplished novelist of the first rank, to whose further work we can look forward with confidence and excitement The San Diego Union-Tribune

...simple yet richly detailed writing that makes the heart ache as [Lahiri] meticulously unfolds the lives of her characters.
USA Today

A book to savor, certainly one of the best of the year.
Atlanta Journal Constitution

[An] exquisitely accomplished novel.
San Jose Mercury News

...one of the best works of fiction published this year.
The Seattle Times

...leaves its imprint through completely believable, well-drawn characters.
Cleveland Plain Dealer

a fascinating journey of self-discovery.
The Miami Herald

Emotionally charged and deeply poignant.
Philadelphia Inquirer

graceful and beautiful.
San Antonio Express-News

Lahiri's latest work doesn't disappoint.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

[The Namesake] speaks to the universal struggle to extricate ourselves from the past.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

...in this second book Lahiri's pace and accent are unmistakable: somber, unrushed, acute in the exposure they offer to life's injuries and to its inroads of hope.
The Nation

Lahiri more than fulfills the promise of [her] auspicious debut.
Orlando Sentinel

...validates all the accolades she's received to date and beckons for more. St. Petersburg Times

...a poignant, beautifully crafted tale of culture shock.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Against all that is irrational and inevitable about life, Lahiri posits the timeless, borderless eloquence and permanence of great writing. Pittsburg Post Gazette

A quietly moving first novel.
Columbus Dispatch

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