Thursday, November 18, 2010

more on freedom

If I had tried, I couldn't have picked a better novel that followed themes I described a couple of posts ago than The Namesake. It's about a family that leaves Calcutta for the United States, where their lives are both much easier and much harder than they would have been had they stayed. Unlike the characters in Freedom, Ashoke and Ashmina don't spend a lot of time under the delusion that they can escape the parts of the past they don't like. Ashoke wants to come to America to expand his horizons and build a better life, but he never pretends or tries very much to be different than he was brought up to be. They enter into an arranged marriage, seek Bengali friends, eat mainly Indian food, keep as many of their customs as they can.

For their children, though, compromises are made, and in many ways as time progresses the family adopts a more "normal" suburban life. It's up to the children, then, to figure out how and whether to shake the past and become someone new.

For long stretches, the book oddly had almost no plot. Things just happened, one after the next, with no suspense and no twists. Toward the end though, it had me close to tears in a dentist's office waiting room.

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