Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss books on the same theme. For our third annual program, the subject is food—local, sustainable, delicious!

Monday, May 16, 2011

What about the Women?

As much as I love The Namesake, one of the aspects of the book that troubles me is the lack of development of certain female characters. Ashima and Moushumi are the only women whose heads we can get inside. But what about Maxine? It's the most serious relationship of Gogol's life so far. We learn a lot about how he feels about her, her parents, their entire world. What does she feel about him?

An even more serious omission is the lack of any character development of Sonia, Gogol's sister. We get only the slightest glimpses of her as a person. We see that as a teenager she's got more of a rebellious edge than Gogol had: dyeing all her clothes black, threatening to put a blond streak in her hair, having a secret boyfriend. We learn that as a child she thought Sesame Street was an actual place. She has a warm relationship with her brother, evidenced by her nickname for him, "Goggles." (I love it that she calls him "Goggles!")

Her existence raises so many questions: what was it like being a girl in that family? Was it easier in any way? Or was it just harder? What were her relationships with guys like? Gogol's peculiar burden was his name. Did she have one?

Sonia's a character we should have had a chance to know.

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