He had spent years maintaining distance from his origins; his parents, in bridging that distance as best they could. And yet, for all his aloofness toward his family in the past, his years at college and then in New York, he has always hovered close to this quiet, ordinary town that had remained, for his mother and father, stubbornly exotic. — The Namesake, 281.
After a long hiatus, I finally found the time to finish reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. Like so many of her stories, Lahiri’s novel highlights the struggle experienced by displaced Bengalis seeking to establish a sense of community in America. Tracing the lives of the Ganguli family, Lahiri evokes the loss of identity associated with the immigrant experience. Following Ashoke, Ashima, Gogol, and Moushumi, Lahiri voices the restless desire for home and identity.
Seamlessly shifting from one character to another, the narrative can be read as a series of stories–illustrating the connections created within this small community as lives come together and break apart.
When I first picked up the novel, I had already seen the movie (something I usually avoid, but Netflix beat me to it). Because the movie tends to focus on Gogol’s story, I find that many of the other voices that make the novel seem so very real are lost, as is the feeling of life’s abruptness that Lahiri creates.