A Hero Protagonist with Some Energy

So last weekend we had our book club – The Namesake.

I really love Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing – all those long, lyrical sentences with clause after clause to string your thoughts along. But I was a bit disappointed in the plot. I felt the hero, Gogol, never really did anything. He simply waited for life to … well, happen.

His “goal” was to find his identity. Which isn’t a very creative goal, of course – I mean, that’s a basic coming-of-age story. But I’ll give Lahiri credit for throwing in the added complications of finding identity when you’re in a cross-cultural family and having a name that you never feel fits you properly in the first place. That was creative, and interesting. But the way Gogol goes about achieving his “goal” is to basically do … well … nothing. He just lets life happen and hopes for the best.

Yes, he changes and begins to find his identity, but not by any actions on his part. His awareness simply comes by way of circumstance (family death, etc.). I liked the book, but I wish the protagonist had some energy. I guess I like my protagonists to be heroes, and Gogol really wasn’t. I like heroes with courage. I like heroes who have to make excruciating choices. I think of Atticus Finch here. I think of Henry DeTamble (The Time Traveler’s Wife). I think of Jake Barnes (The Son Also Rises). In romance novels, I think of Kenny Traveler (Lady Be Good) and any of Laura Kinsdale’s fight-to-the-death-when-you’re-already-kicked-to-the-curb heroes (gosh, Jervaulx anyone?). I like my heroes with some “bite,” I guess.

How about you? What type of hero do you like? Who stands out in your mind?

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