Welcome to Week 2 of the Online Book Club discussion of The Namesake.
How did you enjoy the first four chapters? There wasn't a ton of action in this beginning part, but the writing is just so lush. Jhumpa Lahiri is definitely a master of language.
One of the events that stuck out to me the most was the train wreck that completely changed Ashoke's life. When I first read about the train wreck, I thought that it was a really traumatic story, but I had no idea how the wreck would continue to affect the Ganguli family--especially Gogol. Isn't it interesting that that kind of traumatic event served as inspiration for the name of a baby?
Could you believe that the letter that was supposed to come and provide a name for Gogol never showed up? I love the idea of a family member providing a name for a baby. That feels like a really special and meaningful tradition. But, I don't think I would be able to give up complete control for the naming of a baby. Do you think you could hand over the reigns and let someone else provide the name for one of your children? Does your family have any interesting naming traditions?
I thought the idea of a pet name was really interesting, too. I think it's really cool that pet names are more personal and intimate than the "good name." The pet name is like a nickname, but it seems to have more significance.
It was interesting how Gogol started off as a temporary name, but it increasingly got more permanent. Once he got a passport with the name Gogol on it, I felt like it was going to be the name that stuck with him throughout his life. Wasn't it so sad that Gogol had to get a passport because they needed to go back to India because Ashima's dad died? I can't imagine how hard it was to deal with a death of a parent who lived across the globe.
What did you think of the scene when Gogol first goes to school? I thought the principal was really condescending towards the Gangulis. Did you feel that way? I felt sorry for Gogol since he was scared to have a new name, but I thought it was a little weird that the principal completely disregarded what Gogol's parents wanted. I didn't like how she acted like she knew better. It's interesting that Gogol regretted the fact that he didn't change his name when he first went to school.
Near the end of this section, Ashoke tries to bond with Gogol by presenting him The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol. He tries to explain why the book was so important to him, but Gogol is not interested in bonding over the book. All Gogol can think about is how much he dislikes his name. Did you find that scene really sad? Did you just want to shake Gogol so that he tries to understand his father?
Did any other scenes really jump out to you? How do you think Gogol will change now that he's off to college? Do you think he will come to appreciate his family and his name more in this next section?
Before you go, check out this article from Book Riot that explains the importance of seeing ones own culture represented in literature. And, if you're feeling like cooking after reading the mouth-watering descriptions of food throughout the first section, try this recipe for samosas.
And, don't forget to check out the interview with Jhumpa Lahiri below!
Make sure to leave a comment below to tell me what you thought of this section. Don't forget to read the next four chapters before joining us next week.