Living Abroad, Finding Yourself and Fathers: The Namesake Book Review

Greetings everyone! Today I’m gonna talk about a really fascinating book that I read as a readalong with Abigail @ The Rambling Writer, and it is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I have never read any of Lahiri’s books before and I have heard of this novel before years ago but I never got the urge to read it. So I would like to thank Abigail for making this the book of our readalong, because otherwise I wouldn’t be reading this book ūüôā

cover1The Namesake is a novel about a couple who moved from India to live in the US. And the story revolves around their child, Gogol, who was born and raised in America and about him trying to find himself through his family and his namesake as he grows up.

The beginning of the story was great. It was focused more on the mother and on her point of view, how she felt suddenly moving from her hometown in India to a foreign country just to follow her husband’s work, even though she doesn’t really know her husband because their marriage was arranged. Then it follows how she adjusted to living independently in America and how she gave birth to Gogol, and how Gogol got his name.

I liked how then the point of view shifted from the mother to Gogol as he grows older, where the readers would initially thought the whole story would be focused on the mother as the main character, when in fact the main character was Gogol. I really think it was a good decision to start off with the mother, because in that way you can really know her thoughts and feelings in addition to Gogol’s.

For the story of Gogol and his family’s life itself, I really thought it was relatable for me personally. I moved to a foreign country by myself this year and I became a minority in terms of nationality and culture. I was estranged from my language, my culture, my weather, and my norms, and I can really relate to the mother in that sense. I can also sort of relate myself with Gogol, with how he struggles to come to terms with his unique name. I also have a name that is very uncommon, and sometimes I would just think “Why, dad, why did you give me such a difficult name?” But in the end I still really like my name and thankful for it.

quote2Being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy – a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.

I really love how the story focuses on Gogol’s self discovery, of his struggles on being an Indian who lives his whole life in another country. And also not only that, but about his name, and that relates to his relationship to his father. I really love Gogol’s relationship with the other characters. We don’t really see much of his closeness with his parents or his sister, or anything like that, but we¬†can really feel the familiar relationships, the love Gogol felt from his parents. The relationship of the mother between the father was something that really stuck to me as well. How they didn’t even know each other until they got married, and how they slowly fell in love through marriage but it’s not the conventional love you read on YA novels, it’s the deep and soundless love between two people who have lives most of their lives together.

I found that the writing style in this book was great. It flowed so easily, and during the last third of the book, I just couldn’t put it down and ended up spending around 2 hours reading and finishing the book.

Now I will continue to my spoiler section where I discuss more on the last parts of the book. If you haven’t read the book, don’t read this part, and I’ll put a section similar to the one below¬†to let you know where you can start reading the review again.

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The last chapters of the book I felt like focused too much on Gogol’s love life. I felt like it was nice and quite interesting, because the girls he was with are really also part of his life. But I felt like there could be less of that and more of other aspects of his life, like his relationship with Sonia, or his mother, and his feelings and actions after his father died.

Speaking of his father’s death, that part was heartbreaking but also beautiful. I love Gogol’s relationship with his father, and how he had never really understood his father but afterwards tried his best to do so. I think his death was a wake up call for Gogol, to become closer to his family, and to finally take the role of his pet name as his father would’ve wanted. And while he was alive, I love his dynamic with Gogol, how they weren’t the lovey-dovey type of men but still they convey their love to each other in their own ways.

quote2And suddenly, the sound of his pet name, uttered by his father as he has been accustomed to hearing it all his life, means something completely new, bound up with a catastrophe he has unwittingly embodied for years. “Is that what you think of when you think of me?” Gogol asks him. “Do I remind you of that night?”
“Not at all,” his father says eventually, one hand going to his ribs, a habitual gesture that has baffled Gogol until now. “You remind me of everything that followed.”

The ending itself for me was great, but a little too abrupt. I suppose it’s not that I thought the ending was not good enough, I guess I just didn’t know what to expect about the ending. I do think it was a good way to end the book, how it concluded¬†at the book that was given by Gogol’s father, so it was a full circle. It was like Gogol was sort of reborn and how the readers can imagine that in the future Gogol would read the book and try to embody his father through his actions in life further on.

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All in all, this book was a very good¬†book that handles some¬†interesting themes that I find very fascinating. If you like the overview of the theme of The Namesake I just talked about above, I would definitely recommend that you check it out. And for those of you who have read the book, what did you think of it? Did you agree with my thoughts on the book? Either you have read or haven’t read the book, don’t be shy to tell me your thoughts in the comments. Happy reading everyone!

4 stars

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