Book Review: the Namesake

My dear friend in another country mailed me a copy of The Namesake about two years ago. Every once in while, she would ask if I had gotten some spare time to read the novel. I always said no and stated the reason was either school or not “the right time” to start the novel. A couple of days ago, I was re-organizing my book shelf and came across it. I finished it in two days.

I instantly connected with Gogol and his struggle for acceptance. Torn between two worlds. Especially, Chapter 7 (my favorite), which had a deep and profound impact on my being. The themes I picked up were alienation, loneliness and identity. Even after death, as Gogol’s mother explains to their friends what happened, she refuses, “even in death, to utter her husband’s name.” To me, this is the chapter where everything changes for Gogol; where his life is drastically changed by death.

To think, how stupid to have ignored my friend for so long. The Namesake finds me at a moment in life where I am, like Gogol, torn by what my name means and represents to the outside world, especially in the midst of my first full year after graduation and way from my family and culture.I felt the many parallels between Gogol’s family and my own. Ultimately, Gogol comes to appreciate his parents’ true bravery, the world they left behind and the new one they created.

I am now on the hunt to find Lahiri’s, Interpreter of Maladies. Below are some quotes I liked:

“You are still young, free.. Do yourself a favor. Before it’s too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late.”  

“Pet names are a persistant remnant of childhood, a reminder that life is not always so serious, so formal, so complicated. They are a reminder, too, that one is not all things to all people.” 

“Will you remember this day, Gogol?” his father had asked, turning back to look at him, his hands pressed like earmuffs to either side of his head. “How long do I have to remember it?” Over the rise and fall of the wind, he could hear his father’s laughter. He was standing there, waiting for Gogol to catch up, putting out a hand as Gogol drew near. “Try to remember it always,” he said once Gogol reached him, leading him slowly back across the breakwater, to where his mother and Sonia stood waiting. “Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go.”


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