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Customer Review

on November 25, 2004
Based on my reading of Lahiri's fine short story collection that justifiably won the Pulitzer Prize, I expected a complex, nuanced novel which would deliver closely observed and clear writing. I was ready for a real treat.
Instead, I got a kind of automatic writing of a drawn out short story. At first, the book opens very well with descriptions of a birth and an awful train wreck that changes the course of Gogol's father's life. I thought I was in for something brilliant. But then the plot, if one can call it that, drags and drags. The writing becomes antiseptic, mistaking minute observation for literature, and losing its overall passion and reason for being. I had to fight through much of this book, skipping pointless passages, and enduring elaborate descriptions of Gogol's lovers, their clothes and hairstyles, their shoes, their parents, and their parents' homes. All for what?
Then, when Gogol must confront his father's death, we see him acting like a zombie, retching, breaking up with his girlfriend, but never getting to anything that moves us. His mother's reaction to her husband's death seems inauthentic. And in fact, much in this novel is just that. After a while, I just didn't care about the characters.
The real problem is that Lahiri is a short story writer who tried to stretch a short story into a novel, but didn't have the substance in the original idea to bring it off.
I was frankly disappointed.
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