Jhumpa Lahiri excels at framing deeply emotional experiences in a few well chosen words. “They were things for which it was impossible to prepare but which one spent a lifetime looking back at, trying to accept, interpret, comprehend. Things that should never have happened, that seemed out of place and wrong, these were what prevailed, what endured, in the end.” Ever been there? Yeah, me too.
The Namesake is the story of the Ganguli family whose patriarch, Ashoke, originally from India, teaches in an American university. He brings his wife Ashima over at the beginning of the book and the story continues with the family’s transition from India to America. They have two kids in the U.S. and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I found the book offers tremendous insight into what we generalize as “the immigrant experience.” And as a word nerd and book lover, I thoroughly enjoyed the literary references and the exploration of names and their meanings.
See the movie too. My favorite scene is the very first in which Ashoke visits Ashima (with both their parents present) at her family home in India. On the way into the room she tries on his shoes. It’s shy and sweet and I fell in love with Ashima right away. It made her struggle and grief later in the film (the book too) all the more poignant.
Have you read The Namesake? What did you think?