This is a fantastic novel by a talented writer. To me a good book is characterized by two things: it makes me want to read more from that author, and it makes me want to write as well, reminds me of the magic of the written word. The Namesake accomplishes both.
Anyone who is an immigrant, or can still identify with their immigrant heritage, is sure to connect with the story of the Gangulis, whether they are the immigrants themselves or the first generation of Whatever-American. Lahiri’s simple prose gets to the emotional point of each sentence without making it sappy or heavyhanded; you truly come to care for each member of the family and their own struggle, and especially for Gogol, whom you learn his past and present and surrounding circumstances straight from their own point of view. There is no gimmick here, no surprise revelation, no conspiracy of any sort, just a straightforward story of lives lived between two sides of one self, and the reprecussions of lives split in two, whether the parts are old/young, male/female, Bengali/American, past/future.
After reading The Namesake there is no doubt left why Lahiri is hailed as one of the best new writers in modern American literature, why we suddenly care so much about the lives and dreams of the Bengali-Americans that inhabit her stories: in many ways, they are us, and we are them, and Lahiri is slowly showing that truth one brilliant book at a time.