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Review: The Namesake

The Namesake
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book that allows the reader to gain an understanding of what it is like to immigrate from one culture to another that is dramatically different. As the father-in-law of an Indian-born naturalized citizen, I feel this book has given me a much better grasp of the large community people that have become related, through marriage, to my daughter.
In all honesty, I should give this book five stars. Lahiri is a masterful writer with a unique voice that pours her character’s conflicted emotions directly into the reader’s consciousness and makes it easy to view their life as each of those characters see it. Though a work of fiction, this story feels real and challenges the reader to examine his or her own life through just such a clear and honest lens. I did not give it a five because I found the book depressing. I’m too much of a romantic to accept that love is so easily gained and lost; that a real connection between two people can be cut completely and irretrievably. The main character finds and loses love many times and I could feel myself losing empathy for him–I didn’t want to be in position to feel the pain that is obviously coming. In many ways, it appears that this is what Gogol himself does.
In terms of the clarity of the writing, I count this among the novels that set the standard to which I aspire.

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