Initially reviewed here
I came across a review of "Interpreter of Maladies" in our to-be-published-ISB newsletter today and that reminded me of "The Namesake" by the same author - Jhumpa Lahiri. I happened to read this book about a year back and was really impressed with her writing. A very subtle story told in the most simple and interesting way. The strength of her writing is her exquisite details - be it describing a meal at the dining table or the interiors of a room. It is still so fresh and vivid in my mind!!
The book is about a Bengali family - Ashima and Ashok Ganguly who are in America, but are strongly tied to their roots, rituals and customs in India. They are blessed with a son, whom Ashok names "Gogol" (after the Russian writer Nikolai Gogol who inspired him). The book centers on how Gogol detests his name given by his father. His parents form a wide network of Bengali friends who meet often and celebrate the special occasions ..keeping up the Bengali tradition. Gogol, is more drawn towards the American culture and torn apart with his dual Indian-American life. But after a few relationship failures and few successes, his perspective changes over years and Gogol starts to connect back to his origin.
Jhumpa has done an awesome job in portraying the subtleties of many relationships - most importantly the bonding between Ashima and Ashok and the mother-son relationship, in addition to describing the culture shock that Ashima goes through when she moves to the U.S soon after marriage - the pain of leaving home and years of tradition. This Pulitzer-prize winner is a must read and a treat to the heart.