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Picks and Pans Review: The Namesake

updated 09/15/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/15/2003 01:00AM

By Jhumpa Lahiri

A strong and satisfying follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning story collection Interpreter of Maladies, Lahiri's first novel addresses the problems confronting Indian immigrants in this country. They attempt to remain loyal to their traditions amid the dizzying demands, dislocations and seductions of modern American life.

The hugely appealing hero is a young man, Gogol Ganguli, named after the Russian writer his father was reading on the night when he was saved from a train wreck. Gogol's name becomes a perfect symbol of the misunderstandings and confusions that he must sort out in order to forge an identity that combines his family's values with those of the utterly dissimilar world he experiences at school and in the course of his love affairs with American women. Gracefully written and filled with well-observed details, Lahiri's novel--like her hero--manages to bridge two very different societies and to give us the absolute best of both. (Houghton Mifflin, $24)

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