The Namesake

Jhumpa Lahiri

I watched the movie version of this story in the winter, thinking I’d already read the book — it was actually Lahiri’s short story collection Interpreter of Maladies that I’d read just before this one was published. I was worried I’d picture Kal Penn as Gogol the whole time and to some degree I did at the beginning. But even though the movie stays almost entirely true to the book (emitting some elements to trim the story to movie length), the scenes of the movie faded for the most part.

While I enjoyed the cinematic take, the book definitely wins out with the additional internal perspective on the main characters. There are some great dialogues and scenes that are well-captured on screen, especially since the film is so well-cast, but many of the best parts to me are those that can’t be shown visually: thoughts and reflections, unspoken truths. In many ways this could have been an epic story with the amount of time that it spans, but Lahiri lets lots of time pass between chapters. You still feel like you know the core characters intimately.

This year Lahiri published another collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, which will definitely go on my list right now.