Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake fits the description of a bildungsroman, which is a work of literature that tells the story of a protagonist's formative years. The protagonist of The Namesake is Gogol, who eventually changes his name to Nikhil as a way of displaying his own independence from his parents.
The novel begins, as many bildungsromans do, with the story of Gogol's birth. The reader gets to know his parents and other people in Gogol's life while the events in the plotline unfold, focusing on the childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood experiences of Gogol. These descriptions of Gogol's parents and their families provide the reader with a thorough backdrop of cultural information; the reader understands through these details the life into which Gogol emerges on the day he is born. Because the reader has an intimate understanding of Gogol before Gogol himself even appears, the reader feels invested in the development of the hero of the novel. As protagonist, Gogol faces many conflicts and complications throughout the novel that make his life rich and interesting.