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Major Symbols: trains; Christmas traditions; Indian foods made with American ingredients; The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol
Gogol grows up perplexed by his pet name. Entering kindergarten, the Gangulis inform their son that he will be known as Nikhil at school. The five-year-old objects, and school administrators send him home with a note pinned to his shirt stating that he would be called Gogol at school, as was his preference. As Gogol progresses through school, he resents his name more and more for its oddness and the strange genius for whom he was named. Ashok senses that Gogol is not old enough to understand its significance. When he informs his parents that he wishes to change his name, his father reluctantly agrees. Shortly before leaving for college, Gogol legally changes his name to Nikhil Ganguli.
The novel describes the struggles and hardships of a Bengali couple who immigrate to the United States to form a life outside of everything they are accustomed to. This book definitely handled well the father-son relationship that is quite realistic in the Indian society. It's rather quite accurately described the way the father and the grown-up son trying to re-establish the father-son dynamic years after. It was originally a novel published in The New Yorker and was later expanded to a full-length novel.
Ashoke names his son 'Gogol' as he realizes that “being rescued from that shattered train had been the first miracle of his life” and his baby “reposing in his arms” is the second.
I read this book for my hometown book club. This book is an easy, smooth read. I've been wanting to read a book by Jhumpa Lahiri for a long time and I'm glad the opportunity finally arised. I now have put all the other books that my library has by her on hold.