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"The Namesake" takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. "The New York Times" has praised Lahiri as "a writer of uncommon elegance and poise." "The Namesake" is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity.
In this best-selling follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Interpreter of Maladies, Lahiri continues her insightful exploration of the immigrant experience. During the late 1960s, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli leave India and settle in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he works as a professor of engineering and she gives birth to their son, Gogol. Named after the famous Russian writer, Gogol grows up to become a brilliant student, graduating from Yale and embarking on a career as an architect. Yet, despite his successes, he never quite fits in. Ill at ease with his heritage, he fails to connect with anyone until his mother sets him up on a date with a young Indian-American woman wholike Gogolis ambivalent about her past. Writing with a keen eye for authentic detail, Lahiri has produced a provocative novel about tradition, cultural inheritance and the burden of history. A reading group guide is available online at www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.