partial description from the flap: 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.
I originally started reading this novel a few years ago. For some reason I could not get into it and set it aside for another time. After reading (and loving) Interpreter of Maladies I decided to give it another try. What a different experience it was this time for me. I loved the story of Ashima and Ashoke, especially Ashoke's backstory. I felt both frustration with and sympathy for Gogol. The transformation that he makes throughout the book didn't seem to be completely believable to me at times. I am looking forward to seeing the film version now because I have heard so many people say that they enjoyed it even more than the book. I do adore Jhumpa Lahiri's writing style. She is quickly becoming a new favorite for me. I would rate this a 4/5.