First: LOVED IT.
Lahiri's descriptions were so rich, especially--I'm noticing this now as I think back through the book--when it comes to the aspects of Bengali & American life that she juxtaposes. Here are the ones that I could think of:
- Food: At first I thought she was describing the Indian dishes for the benefit of those of us who don't know the cuisine, but then the descriptions of the restaurants Gogol ate at & the food at his first dinners with Maxine & Moushumi were just as minute, & so hunger-inducing.
- Family: His repressed relationship with his parents vs. Ruth's hippie parents & Maxine's laid-back parents. Even the things they talked about at the dinner table were so different: I remember something about him thinking that his parents would never argue about movies or music.
- Parties: the loud, crazy Bengali parties vs. the dinner parties he went to in NY, especially with Maxine's family
- Clothes: She goes to such great lengths to describe Gogol's mother's saris, his jeans, his girlfriends' sweaters, shoes, everything. I was particularly struck at the beginning with his mother's reaction to the hospital gown she had to trade her sari in for when she was giving birth, because it only reached to the knee.
- Homes: The Gangulis' fastidiousness (I loved the remark about some Bengali families laying newspaper on the carpet in the room the kids were in!) was quickly rejected by him as soon as college, & he loved the quiet disorder in Maxine's family's house.
- Death: Forgot this one initially, but it stuck out to me more than most. Gogol seems to always notice graveyards, perhaps because they're so different from the Indian funeral customs. But in the end, the photo of his father in their house on Pemberton Road is "the closest thing" he has to a grave.
Did anyone else find it ironic that the man who ruined Gogol's marriage, the one whose "name upset Gogol more than his own" for the first time, also had a Russian name? It's a good thing Gogol is my husband's favorite author (he served his mission in St. Petersburg & majored in Russian at BYU), because now I can read "The Overcoat!"
Lastly (I know this is long), I find it interesting that after all of their rejection of the lifestyle their parents created for them, Gogol & Sonia wind up appreciating it, even embracing it. It reminds me of that little rebellion period that I think most of us go through, where our parents are uncool & not smart in the least, & then we mature, get married, have kids, & end up doing a lot of the same things our parents did.