Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

At 10:30 a.m. this Friday, June 6, the morning book group will be discussing The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. The Namesake is the story of a Bengali couple who immigrate from Calcutta to Boston; the story of their Americanized son, Gogol; and a book about the immigrant experience, families and identity and names, names, names: namesakes and pet names and good names. Jhumpa Lahiri points out in an interview that having two names is "almost too perfect a metaphor for the experience of growing up as the child of immigrants, having a divided identity, divided loyalties, etc."

Gogol's world and that of his parents and wife envelops the reader as the story unfolds slowly and methodically. The critical consensus about Jhumpa Lahiri is that her style is "quiet" but dazzling (she is the daughter of a librarian!): Time called Jhumpa Lahiri "the Quiet Laureate" this month in an article about her newest novel, Unaccustomed Earth. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called The Namesake "quietly dazzling" in its review. Stephen Metcalf, also writing in the Times, described Lahiri's earlier collection of short stories, The Interpreter of Maladies, to be "written in an elegant hush."

If you are wondering what "pujo" refers to - mentioned indirectly several times in the book, as in "pujo money", read about this celebration that is so important in Calcutta and to expatriates.

Discussion questions are available here at the Reading Group Guides web site.

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