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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

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  •  
    Karen Los Gatos, CA, USA 03-18-04
    Karen Los Gatos, CA, USA 03-18-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    98
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    3
    FOLLOWERS
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    5
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    Overall
    "Better on paper than in audio"

    The cultural perspective of this book is by far its most interesting attribute. The author's portrayal of the "generation gap" combines with her equally astute portrayal of the "cultural gap" (the parents grew up in Calcutta and the children grew up in America), resulting in some very thought-provoking conflict. The prose itself is also at times quite stellar. Unfortunately, the reader is just okay, apparently chosen because of her ability to interchange American and Indian accents. There are also frequent and very distracting overdubs, probably to fix reading mistakes, which sound so mismatched that they can't possibly go unnoticed. Still, I listened to this book all the way through, and it was worth it.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roger Portland, OR, USA 11-27-03
    Roger Portland, OR, USA 11-27-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    21
    1
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Disappointment"

    I'm a fan of Lahiri's short fiction, so I looked forward to her first novel with great hope. The nonevent material that worked wonderful in short stories does not work in this novel. The lack of a structural direction is disappointing. I'd much prefer this book be broken up into series of short stories.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra Alton, Ontario, Canada 08-10-09
    Sandra Alton, Ontario, Canada 08-10-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    4
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    0
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    Overall
    "Lost interest"

    This title did not live up to my expectations at all. I was disappointed, and actually abandoned it before it ended. Not a book I would suggest.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    07-22-09
    07-22-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    35
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    49
    19
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    0
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    Overall
    "A GOOD LISTEN"

    the story moves along very nicely. The usual life evens, but not too much.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan allen, TX, USA 03-13-04
    Susan allen, TX, USA 03-13-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
    50
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    32
    30
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    1
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    Overall
    "Pretty good."

    Gives good prespective as to what it must be like to be an foreigner in this country. A bit long winded....I accidently skipped a whole section on the book, and didn't miss a beat.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Mullen Waukesha, WI 12-16-08
    Paul Mullen Waukesha, WI 12-16-08 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    197
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    163
    35
    FOLLOWERS
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    2
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    Overall
    "some things to learn, but..."

    Well, I'm pretty sure that this is the kind of book, when turned into a movie, will result me falling asleep on the couch. It is all about relationships and culture of an American-born Indian who lives between the eastern India Bengali heritage of his parents and the Americo-European heritage of the US eastern seaboard. The story doesn't really end, the author just stops telling it. I think I learned a few things about being a 3rd culture kid, but there are more efficient ways to learn. This one doesn't go on my recommendations list.

    1 of 7 people found this review helpful

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