Monday, April 17, 2006

Book review: "The Namesake"

This from Saturday, April 15:

Since I’ve been home for the Easter weekend, I reread Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel “The Namesake.” I started on the train yesterday and finished it this afternoon, reading on the patio watching the sun go down. Sometimes I would look up from the reading and see a robin on the roof or a squirrel by the trees – it was great.

I first read this book in August 2004 in Rehoboth Beach. L and I were trapped inside because of a storm, and it took all the willpower I had to not devour the novel in one or two sittings. This time, though, I abandoned all restraint and consumed the novel the way I had hoped to. Even on a second reading, I was amazed at the scope of what Lahiri has done – in a mere 300 pages she covers two generations of a family, leapfrogging through time but still giving the reader enough to feel invested.

I think of all the novels I have ever read (ok, since becoming an adult), I have never been more affected emotionally by a book. Sure, I’ll give a good cry at “Stepmom” (damn you, TBS, for your constant airings) but books have never really hit me at the core. This one, though, put a lump in my throat several times over. The relationship between father and son reaches into a huge weak spot of mine, and the discussion of names and what people call us and how we call ourselves is also very familiar to me. It’s funny that when I’m home I respond to nicknames so instinctually, and how weird it is to hear my parents call me by my given name when we’re out with people.

Anyways, “The Namesake” remains an amazing book. Thematic elements of family, migration, trains, naming, love, maturity, books, reading, gifts. I love it.

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