It is both a calming and exhilarating feeling to read the last page of a book that you know will forever be a part of your official Favorites list. You feel lucky to have found it, a bit sad that the experience of the first read is over, and the burning need to tell everyone you know all about it and insist that they read it and appreciate it as much as you do. I have the incredible luck to have several people very close to me (most specifically my father and grandmother) who appreciate and reciprocate this love of reading and are always willing to give and take recommendations. It is a strong connection between us and I never tire of hearing what they are reading and sharing what I have found. They will be hearing from me soon, and emphatically so, about a book I just finished.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake has been placed very near to the top of my All-Time Favorites list and I can’t imagine it losing that spot ever. I don’t believe I’ve ever read anything more carefully written, more sensitively detailed, more profoundly real to human nature and the dynamics of family. The story is one that, I believe, every American needs to understand- the infinitely complex issues of immigrant families, and the next American-born generation, trying to find a home here, trying to fit in, both denying and clinging to aspect of their culture and race, creating a space for themselves that is so particular to who they are, what they know and believe, and how they want to be seen and understood by their community.
It is also a book about relationships- the intimate connections between people that shape them, force them to grow up, allow them to see themselves through the eyes of others, and again, cause them to both cling to their roots and try to deny them. One important idea that the story conveys is that sometimes who or what you think is the most ideal fit, the most appropriate thing, is not always what the heart wants. There is one line in the story, when the narrator is speaking about a failed marriage:
“They were not willing to accept, to adjust, to settle for something less than their ideal of happiness.”
I’m considering putting it on a t-shirt. Why do we live with less? There has to be compromise in life, no question, and the reasons for those compromises are infinite but so often we accept more than we should, adjust things we really shouldn't budge on and live in a state so far below that ideal, that it raises big questions of why we are willing to do those things. So yeah, Jhumpa, I sure do get what you are saying.
Here's what I'm saying: read the book.