An unassuming novel about an immigrant family growing together as it pulls apart, The Namesake is so soft and subtle that it feels barbaric to heap on the praise it deserves. Everything about it–the richly drawn characters, the intergenerational sweep of the story, the exquisite tweak of details–signals a talent grand enough to warrant blinking lights, though first-time novelist Jhumpa Lahiri seems better suited to a spotlight implied by shadows. The Namesake focuses on an Indian family that moved from Calcutta to Boston in the '60s, when a professorship lured two arranged-marriage newlyweds to a foreign land where customs were alien and comforts hard to come by. Mrs. Ganguli fiddles with Rice Krispies and Planters peanuts in the kitchen, while Mr. Ganguli oversees his new life with a quiet mix of pride and bemusement. Their son Gogol grows up mortified by his parents' otherworldliness, rolling his eyes at their Indian routines but also, in ways that become more pronounced as they become harder to define, sharing their inability to feel truly settled in a land somewhere between home and where his heart is. The tale trails a deep reading of the immigrant family's plight and pleasure in a world that's theirs to reconcile. But Lahiri, making good on the riches that won her debut short-story collection Interpreter Of Maladies a 2000 Pulitzer Prize, spins The Namesake as a family tale first and an allegory second. A master of withholding and letting details do the work that only details can do, Lahiri crafts a wondrous world where allegiances to family, heritage, and self linger without serving as prime motivators. Attending a discussion of Indian novels at college, Gogol finds himself "bored by the panelists, who keep referring to something called 'marginality,' as if it were some sort of medical condition." He initially regards his ethnicity with a mix of resignation and rage, but over the course of a relationship with a liberal Manhattan well-to-do and a troubled marriage to an Indian woman, Gogol's loyalties evolve without losing their bearings. At the center of Gogol's story is a family so nuanced and loving that it's hard to let go, which makes The Namesake a probing, strikingly assured novel that doesn't need to look far to see the world that surrounds it.