Although Ashoke is no longer living, he is still present in these pages. In looking into his childhood room one last time, Gogol finds the collection of Gogol stories that, when he was a teenager, he was too busy and angsty to read. Ashoke wanted, then, to tell his son the story of the name Gogol. But that story had to wait years, until Gogol was in college, and after he had already changed his legal name. Gogol realizes, in looking at the first page of his father’s volume, that Ashoke had wanted, long before, to tell him the story of “Gogol.” Only now is Gogol ready to understand it, to listen to it.

It is an emotional chapter. Lahiri carefully balances the good and the bad, the happy and the unhappy, the lost and the still-present. Ashima is, of course, happy to see her children. She likes Ben and is pleased that Sonia will marry him. She worries about Gogol, in the wake of his divorce, but is happy to see him, too, and to celebrate a final Christmas at Pemberton Road with him. The entire family misses Ashoke, whose presence can never be replaced. But, as above, Ashoke is still there—his picture hangs on the wall, and his writing is on the first page of the book Gogol opens.

Lahiri has managed an impressive trick, to close her story. The reader is finished reading, but Gogol is only beginning. The reader has learned the story of the Gangulis, but Gogol is ready to learn the stories of Nikolai Gogol, the same stories that inspired his father so long ago, that became caught up in his traumatic past. It is important to note, too, that Lahiri does not really “finish” her story. She does not tell us if Gogol ever gets remarried. She doesn’t say whether Sonia’s marriage to Ben is a successful one, or if they, like Moushumi and Gogol, will fight. She does not elaborate on Ashima’s plan to divide her time between the US and India.

But the novel began in a similar way. Ashima, in Chapter 1, is already expecting her child. She and Ashoke have already been introduced and have married. The novel begins “in the middle of the action,” and it ends that way, too. This method allows the reader to feel immersed in a world of Lahiri’s creation. And this world, despite ending within the form of the novel, appears to continue outside in, beyond the last page.