In a few minutes he will go downstairs, join the party, his family. But for now his mother is distracted, laughing at a story a friend is telling her, unaware of her son’s absence. For now, he starts to read.

Gogol, at the close of Chapter 12, picks up The Stories of Nikolai Gogol, and the narrator closes the book with these lines. They are a fitting end to a novel that is so much about family and individual growth, about one’s relation to the past and to the future. Gogol has, by this point in the novel, realized his obligations to his mother and his sister. He has always returned dutifully to the Boston area to see his family, but previously, he did so merely because he felt he had to. This trip, however, is different. Gogol seems genuinely excited about celebrating one final Christmas with his mother at Pemberton Road. And Ashima, for her part, is ready to move on to a new stage of her life, even as she realizes how much the Pemberton Road house has meant to her and to the family over the years.

Gogol recognizes that his mother is in need of this kind of “distraction,” of the company of friends and family. And Gogol finds a kind of distraction for himself, too. It has been a difficult past year, as he is still reeling from his divorce. He is trying, as he has throughout the novel, to understand who he is and what he wants. Although his professional life is largely secure, his relationship has dissolved. His father is no longer alive to communicate with him. Thus Gogol “talks” to his father the only way he can: by reading the book his father gave him, years ago, and which Gogol barely even glanced at, at the time. Gogol’s stories do not contain Ashoke’s words, but they meant an enormous amount to him in life. And by reading them, in solitude, after the party, Gogol can learn more about his father—about the love his father had for Gogol and for the rest of the Ganguli family.