I really enjoyed this book. So much so in fact, that I went and bought her short story debut Interpreter of Maladies this week when I discovered the possibility of the necessity for more plane reading material was acute. Naturally, it's by an Indian author and so my bias is probably going to show, but what I think I appreciated so much about it was that it dealt with the possible difficulties of first generation Americans. The ties between the old country and the new or in some cases the lack of ties. The assumption often made by well-meaning people that because you have dark skin and look Indian that you know a great deal about the country. My relatives probably came across the mountains into Missouri from Tennessee or Kentucky, but it does not mean that I can tell you much more about the state than the capital and these are places within my own country - it is not surprising then that an Indian child born over here might know very little in actuality about the country of India. This is a book that is a character story, and the ending left me a bit unsatisfied I suppose, but that does have a bit to do with my own personal irritation and impatience with people who do not take their marriage vows seriously and in the end I'm not certain that the book was meant to leave you completely satisfied. I did, however, like that although it did not necessarily satisfy me, I did believe that there was hope of good things in the future. I like that Gogol came full circle with his name - that in the end it might be that name that would bring him to a place in his culture where he will learn his own place. There's hope although up until this point his life has often felt conflicted or torn between one place and another. Even his marriage ends up being a vague contradiction between his own personal feelings and the wishes of his family. I think as Gogol comes to terms with his own place and his own existence perhaps there is hope for him to find a life and possibly a family in a way where he will truly feel at home and comfortable. Overall I thought it was a good read. The characters were interesting and rang true. They were different enough from each other to remain interesting, and once again I enjoyed a peak into a culture very different from my own.
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