By Zara Alexis D. Garcia-Alvarez
Author: Jhumpra Lahiri
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pub Date: August 4, 2009
The narrative is so clear and written with such ease that I easily became engrossed in the story of the Ganguli family as it spanned throughout years, each page, a catalyst to further reading and emotional investment.
The flow of the language is natural and rich in the truth it reveals about the immigrant experience, and though specifically about coming from India and making a life in America, Lahiri writes with authentic detail and wisdom about immigration as it crosses borders, both truthfully and universally.
And though the main character, Gogol “Nikhil” Ganguli is at the centre of the narrative, the specific perspectives and sufferings of the family who surrounds him found in his father, Ashoke, his mother, Ashima, and his sister, Sonali, all speak a truth about the different trials and responses to transition to and from abroad.
Lahiri speaks to the meaning of being ethnic, marginal, liminal, and the complexity of defining yourself and home. There is a tension and dichotomy between the previous country and the new, and the expectations one not only has of himself, but the expectations of those around him, and how these definitions stretch and become malleable and blurred, with an outcome of becoming something new entirely.
The gut of the book is about the naming of things and people; how one identifies himself, namely, Gogol. How, why, and what he was named is a central theme in the novel.
It’s a story about coming into one’s own understanding of his relationship to his culture (old and new), his family, his home, himself, and what he chooses to accept and reconcile in a name.
Surprisingly, the film is as beautiful and rich as the novel it is based on.