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The Namesake: A Novelby Jhumpa Lahiri
2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
"In her 2000 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri introduced us to people who left behind family and friends and the familiar heat and bustle of India to build a new life in America — a cold, bleak land of strangers and new customs. Lahiri's sweet, sometimes deep, sometimes quirky first novel, The Namesake, picks up on these beloved themes and then expands on them, following the Indian-American immigrant experience through to the next generation as she tracks the members of the Ganguli family." Amy Reiter, Salon.com (read the entire Salon review)
Synopses & Reviews
Jhumpa Lahiri's debut story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, took the literary world by storm when it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. Fans who flocked to her stories will be captivated by her best-selling first novel, now in paperback for the first time.
The Namesake is a finely wrought, deeply moving family drama that illuminates this acclaimed author's signature themes: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the tangled ties between generations.
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of an arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Ashoke does his best to adapt while his wife pines for home. When their son, Gogol, is born, the task of naming him betrays their hope of respecting old ways in a new world. And we watch as Gogol stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With empathy and penetrating insight, Lahiri explores the expectations bestowed on us by our parents and the means by which we come to define who we are.
"Lahiri's first novel amounts to less than the sum of its parts....By any other writer, this would be hailed as a promising debut, but it fails to clear the exceedingly high bar set by her previous work." Publishers Weekly
"[Q]uietly dazzling....[A] wonderfully intimate and knowing family portrait...a debut novel that is as assured and eloquent as the work of a longtime master of the craft." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Lahiri's short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize, and her deeply knowing, avidly descriptive, and luxuriously paced first novel is equally triumphant." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"[B]eautiful....[A] bigger, untidier, and ultimately more involving book [than Interpreter of Maladies]....[Lahiri is a] sophisticated, gimlet-eyed chronicler of contemporary urban American life. (Grade: A)" Entertainment Weekly
"[P]oignant...a rich, stimulating fusion of authentic emotion, ironic observation, and revealing details. Readers who enjoyed the author's Pulitzer Prize-winning short story collection...will not be disappointed." Library Journal
"Jhumpa Lahiri expands her Pulitzer Prize-winning short stories of Indian assimilation into her lovely first novel, The Namesake." Vanity Fair
"Though Lahiri writes with painstaking care, her dry synoptic style fails to capture the quirkiness of relationships....A disappointingly bland follow-up to a stellar story collection." Kirkus Reviews
"This eagerly anticipated debut novel deftly expands on Lahiri's signature themes of love, solitude and cultural disorientation." Harper's Bazaar
"Pulitzer Prize-winner Jhumpa Lahiri weaves an intricate story of the cultural assimilation of an Indian family in America. Their bumpy journey to self-acceptance will move you." Maire Claire
This quietly beautiful family portrait "deftly expands on Lahiri's signature themes of love, solitude, and cultural disorientation" (Harper's Bazaar), the very themes that made her collection of stories an international bestseller.
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 was born 1967 in London, England, and raised in Rhode Island. She is a graduate of Barnard College, where she received a B.A. in English literature, and of Boston University, where she received an M.A. in English, M.A. in Creative Writing and M.A. in Comparative Studies in Literature and the Arts, and a Ph.D. in Renaissance Studies. She has taught creative writing at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design. Her debut collection, Interpreter of Maladies, won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was translated into twenty-nine languages and became a bestseller both in the United States and abroad. In addition to the Pulitzer, it received the PEN/Hemingway Award, the New Yorker Debut of the Year award, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Addison Metcalf Award, and a nomination for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Lahiri was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002. The Namesake is Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel. She lives in New York with her husband and son.
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