Tuesday, May 01, 2007

[BOOK CLUB] The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri

I'll just go right out and say it, regardless of the clanging cliche, this was one of those books I was sad to finish. And, despite my desire to avoid getting all dramatic and melancholy over a book, I still want to share the feeling I'm left with having finished it.

Like catching a beautiful fish - The whole experience is at once enjoyable, anxious, frustrating and satisfying. I try to enjoy the journey: casting repeatedly into the current, trying not to get too antsy about adjusting where the fly falls, patient with the fish that rise to the surface but don't bite. And finally with The One who does bite, reeling it in and admiring it briefly under the surface of the water, letting it slip easily off the hook and through my fingers back into the cool ripples of the river.

Ok, so I haven't been out on the river yet this year and I'm ready to reassemble my fly rod and get to casting. Sorry. It has started to seep into other parts of my life...

Back to the book, though.

My favorite thing about this book was the not-so-tied-up-in-a-bow ending that I was anticipating. As the story got closer to the end and Gogol started making more predictable decisions, I started getting this nagging feeling that the author was going to mail it in and pull a "happy ever after" on me. So glad I was wrong.

I'll concede something else here, too - there wasn't too much overt drama here. And I like that. See, sometimes I avoid books/movies/TV shows/people because the stories are too dramatic, too overwrought, too get-me-all-tied-up-in-a-knot and it bugs. I prefer the sensation of a more authentic slice-of-life story that isn't so artificially woven with catastrophic events that by the end of the book you're mostly bald and seeking varieties of medical attention.

Like Suite Francaise, I got the fly-on-the-wall feeling (btw: Why am I using so many hyphenated descriptors? Bubba is going to call me out on this one, fo sho.) of peeking into a life so much different than my own without any prejudging or bias. That is the work of a fine author, in my opinion. I never felt like I was being guided into judging any of the characters in one way or another.

I'm being kind of vague about the specific story line, in the event that you haven't read the book yet, because this is one I'd recommend pretty highly and I don't want to ruin it for you. Plus, Amazon gives a pretty beefy sum of the story and I'm not in the business of writing book reports anymore. At least not in the traditional 5th grade sense. So I'll sum my thoughts up as such: A pleasurable and intriguing story of an Indian man growing up in the US, including all the conflict that comes with integrating with American society.

Your thoughts?

For my next trick, I say we move on to The Stolen Child. I would have chosen Water for Elephants, but I picked it up mid-month and couldn't manage to keep my hands off it and have thus finished it prior to book choosing time. I do, however, recommend it pretty highly - especially if you have ever threatened to run way to the circus. After reading this book though, I'm glad I didn't get farther than the driveway.

So, let's meet back up on, say, 6/15, to chat on The Stolen Child.


  1. I loved the Namesake. I highly highly recommend Lahiri's book of short stories (Interpreter of Maladies).

  2. Hmmm, I think I 'll probably be out-numbered here, but I was a bit disappointed. While I enjoyed her prose very much, I was quite unaffected by the characters. I stayed emotionally uninvolved throughout the book and I'm not sure why. The book is well written - it just didn't connect with me. Am I the only one who thought, "Ho hum. So what."?

  3. I loved the book, too, and I think it also has a lot to do with my very good friends (you met most of them, Finny) that are 1st generation Indian-American and it was almost like having a conversation with them while reading the book.

    Are you going to see the movie? It was also very very good. Bring Kleenex.

  4. Okay, I'm shuffling in a bit late. I totally read the book on time, wrote a review on my blog, and um....forgot to check in here at the pre-arranged time (hellooo...). Loved the book. Loved it.

    Water for Elephants? Absolutely hated it. Too much cruel circus stuff. No can handle. The whole story seemed pointless other than the fact that a man in a convalescent home was hiding a voluminous life (as so many are, if we only were to ask...). And the Polish elephant was a cool thing, especially as it was based on a true event. But I'd vote not a worthy read overall on that one. Count me in on the next adventure...


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Look at you commenting, that's fun.

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Sucks, right?

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