Ashima, a recent immigrant to the United States from India, feels contractions when she calls to her husband, Ashoke, to take her to the hospital. As she waits to deliver her baby, Ashima thinks of how she and her husband met and their shared interest in literature. While Ashoke waits, he recalls an incident on a train in India where he meets a man who encourages him to travel abroad, then gets killed with other passengers when the train derails.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 1
Ashima gives birth to a son, and they send a letter to India to inform their family. According to Bengali tradition, they must wait for Ashima’s grandmother to name the baby, but instead of waiting, the couple resolves on naming him Gogol, after Ashoke’s literary idol. One evening, Ashima’s brother calls with news that her father has died of a heart attack, and Ashima, Ashoke, and Gogol begin their long journey to India.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 2
When Gogol is five years old, Ashima becomes pregnant with a daughter, Sonia. On Gogol’s first day of school, his parents say he will have to present himself with a new name (“Nikhil”) but at school, he insists on Gogol. Gogol feels alienated in school by his classmates who frequently make fun of his name.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 3
Ashoke gives Gogol a copy of Nikolai Gogol’s short stories and relates the significance of his name, but Gogol brushes aside the gift. When Gogol enters tenth grade, Ashoke and Ashima announce that they will spend several months in Calcutta. While there, Gogol and Sonia feel out of place. In Gogol’s eleventh grade English class, his teacher assigns the works of Nikolai Gogol, which makes Gogol despair when he learns about the writer’s difficult life and question why his parents named him after such a luckless author.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 4
By the time Gogol begins college, he has officially changed his name to Nikhil. He begins dating Ruth, a fellow student, for over a year before she heads to Oxford, but when she returns they find that their relationship has fizzled. Ashoke eventually reveals to Gogol about the train in India that almost killed him, and how it was in that moment that his love for Nikolai Gogol was solidified, and that Gogol’s namesake is indicative of his love for his son.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 5
Years later, Gogol lives in New York where he meets Maxine and quickly falls in love. Gogol decides to introduce Maxine to his parents. Gogol spends more time with Maxine’s family, and he falls in love with their culturally savvy and well-versed way of life.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 6
Ashoke dies from a heart attack. After learning of his father’s passing, Gogol takes care of his father’s belongings and observes a period of family mourning, all the while pushing Maxine aside. Ashima takes care of the logistical details, and while on the train back to New York, Gogol daydreams about a trip he and his father once took.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 7
Gogol and Maxine break up. Ashima sets Gogol up with Moushumi, and their romance grows quickly.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 8
Gogol and Moushumi get married in a traditional Bengali ceremony. Later, they attend a dinner at Moushumi’s friends’ apartment where a discussion of names comes up, and Gogol grows upset when he learns Moushumi stayed with these friends after a hard break-up.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 9
Cracks in Moushumi and Gogol’s relationship form after their first wedding anniversary, when Moushumi recalls a man named Dimitri whom she met years ago. The two begin an affair, with Gogol none the wiser.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 10
Gogol awakes in bed one morning alone and is troubled by thoughts of his strained relationship with Moushumi. For Christmas, Gogol decides to give Moushumi a trip to Italy for the two of them.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 11
On a train, Gogol, now separated from Moushumi, reminisces on the past. When he goes to his family’s holiday party, he wanders to his old room, finds the collection of Nikolai Gogol stories Ashoke gave him, and relishes in the thought of reading the stories and how it will connect him with his father.
Read a full Summary & Analysis of Chapter 12