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The Namesake | [Jhumpa Lahiri]

The Namesake

The Namesake follows the Ganguli family through its journey from Calcutta to Cambridge to the Boston suburbs. 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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Jhumpa Lahiri's command of language is absolutely stunning. She can, in just a few phases, accomplish a poignancy and authenticity that others rarely achieve in hours of storytelling. I didn't think anything could possibly elevate my opinion of Lahiri's debut novel...and then I listened to Sarita Choudhury's graceful reading. Her mix of American and Indian accents is perfectly suited for this beautiful story about the delicate balance between cultures and generations. —Diana Dapito

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.

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (933 )
5 star
 (338)
4 star
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3 star
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3.9 (267 )
5 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (265 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (37)
2 star
 (5)
1 star
 (5)
Performance
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  •  
    Gail San Diego, CA, USA 08-10-07
    Gail San Diego, CA, USA 08-10-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Good Read for A Young Adult"

    If it weren't for the fact that I lived and worked in Cambridge during the time in which this novel is set, I would have only given the book two stars. For me, the story's locale brought back many personal memories, and so for that reason, I enjoyed the book more than I would have otherwise. At times it seemed that I was listening to a story being read in the children's room at the public library. The reader often seems to drop syllables from certain words, but that is really just a minor defect. My main criticism of the story is the forced way in which the protagonist's name is used. It seems a device, a distraction, and has really very little to do with the tale being told, as if Ms. Lahiri was writing for a topic assigned in a creative writing class. Perhaps, with a bit of editing, she could have removed the intrusion of Nikolai Gogol into her story completely.
    The author relates the biographies and immigrant experiences of four main characters, centering for the most part on Gogol Ganguli, born at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, the son of Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli recent Bengali immigrants from Calcutta, and one other second generation Indian, Moushumi Mazoomdar. Her descriptions are vivid, almost mathematically precise. She succeeds in conveying the emotional lives of her characters. Since I very much enjoy novels by Indian authors of late, I felt I did gain some insight and perspective on their lives and culture. Nevertheless, the essentially quotidian nature of the story is not enough to make this great literature. It barely rises to the level of good soap opera.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 08-04-07
    Angie Kansas City, MO, United States 08-04-07 Member Since 2005

    Immigration lawyer in Kansas City. I like Character driven dramas, fantasy (monsters, magic and witches oh my!) and coming of age stories. Favs include: The Book Thief, The Game of Throne series, Harry Potter Series, Dresden Files, Nightside series, anything by Neil Gaimen, 100 Years of Solitude.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nice listen"

    I liked this book but didn't love it. I enjoyed the characters and the story. I liked how the author really showed that the main character was constantly ill at ease with himself and his life and his identy.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan Houston, TX, United States 02-16-04
    Susan Houston, TX, United States 02-16-04 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Namesake"

    There's no doubt that this is a well-written and well put together novel. It builds slowly and tells the story of an ordinary man, struggling with the disparate parts of his background and his environment--an essentially American story in that way--an American immigrant story. I liked it and don't fault it for being about an ordinary family. But I can't say I think it's really an excellent novel, except technically. I see an enormous number of novels that show excellent craftsmanship these days, but that I know won't last, and this is one of them.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Katherine Marietta, GA, United States 11-25-03
    Katherine Marietta, GA, United States 11-25-03 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Honest and Heartfelt"

    I enjoyed this book 100%. It follows a family though a lifetime together. While it is true, there is nothing extraordinary about this family and Namesake has no bizarre or tricky plot twists, it is this simplicity that made me simply fall in love with this book.

    If you are looking for action packed drama, look on. I loved Namesake because the characters and relationships were so real and powerful. I cared about this family. This slice of life drama took me in completely. I did not want it to end. To top it off, the reader is wonderful as well.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    roberta United States 09-03-13
    roberta United States 09-03-13 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A disappointment"
    Would you try another book from Jhumpa Lahiri and/or Sarita Choudhury?

    I wouldn't try another book by this author. The details in the beginning were interesting but after a while became ponderous. The plot moved slowly and jumped great scans of time. Couldn't tell at the end if Goggle had learned anything about his own life as an Indian in America or about growing to be a man ready for responsibility. There was almost no point to the story.


    If you’ve listened to books by Jhumpa Lahiri before, how does this one compare?

    first time for this author


    Have you listened to any of Sarita Choudhury’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    The narrator was excellent.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    I picked this book because it was on the 100 best books and the title was intriguing. Poor choice.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Las Cruces, NM, United States 04-19-12
    Scott Las Cruces, NM, United States 04-19-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Enjoyable -- mostly."

    This is another of those stories that start with color and intensity in a foreign culture at a crossroad of historical events, only to end aimlessly in the contemporary USA with its life blood drained away. I would have rated it much higher if the story line had never moved so far away from its core.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynthia Houston, TX, United States 11-20-11
    Cynthia Houston, TX, United States 11-20-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Incredibly dull book"

    This book was so well reviewed, and my lifelong friend is the daughter of Indian immigrants, so I thought I would really enjoy the story. Unfortunately I have to agree with several other reviewers who said the book was about nothing. There appeared to be no other issue to the story than the fact that the main character was embarrassed about his name. I kept waiting for something to happen that was not completely mundane. I like a very wide variety of books and never stop reading a book just because it doesn't grab me right away, but this was just painful. I actually find it kind of humorous that so many people loved this book and I think it's just awful. I feel like someone who goes to an art gallery to see some "amazing" painting that everyone is raving about, only to discover it's just a blank white canvas on display!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Prince BLOOMINGTON, IN, United States 07-02-10
    Prince BLOOMINGTON, IN, United States 07-02-10 Member Since 2003

    Prince Butler

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lacked depth"

    It is as if the story teller related the events to an encyclopedia writer. The facts are there, but I felt that the writing style lacked color and depth. There was so little detail, that much of the book felt like it was a plot summary of another book. Most conversations and events were boiled down to a couple of sentences about the topic, with few literary embellishments. This style covered the material efficiently which does allow the reader to "get it over with" quickly, which is a benefit if your only goal is to read this book as a school requirement. If you are reading for enjoyment though, a little more descriptivness might improve the story. There were some descriptions of cultural tensions, but on the whole, the lives of the characters were unremarkable with the normal ups and down of a lifetime of relationships.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bethann Kingston, Ontario, Canada 12-12-08
    Bethann Kingston, Ontario, Canada 12-12-08 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful!"

    This is a truly wonderful oral rendition of Lahiri's first novel. The story is, of course, beautiful; the narration is fabulous. Highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert in Denver 01-23-08 Listener Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    21
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    "Bland"

    Didn't love it, didn't hate it. Just kind of bland and boring. No real emotional involement in any of the characters lives... more like an outsider hitting the highlights of a families life.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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