Title: Family Life
Author: Akhil Sharma
Publisher: Penguin Group
Price in India: Rs. 499 (though you can get it at a way cheaper price at Amazon or Flipkart).
Favourite Lines: “There is no point in denying what has happened, Shuba. We have to keep trusting God. We can’t just trust God when he’s doing what we want. We have to trust him even when things are not as we would like them.” (Page 64)
Review: When I had read the synopsis over Amazon.in, I was pretty excited to read it because the synopsis was pretty much tempting, but the book disappointed me a bit. Not that the book actually disappointed me, but if I compare to the level of excitement in me while reading the synopsis, and that while leafing through the book, I would say the synopsis was better.
The initial part of the book was pretty nice. It kept me on the go. But as and when I read more and more into the book, the book lost it’s charm, which, obviously, I had not expected. All the way, the book has been very much predictable, apart from the end, which was the worst part of the book.
Family Life is about a family who, in the first chapter, lives in India, and from the second, settles down in America. This story is about what Indian immigrants had to deal with in America in the late 1970s. The story revolves around Ajay’s family. Though, Ajay’s parents and he, himself, contribute equally to the story, but since Ajay is the narrator of his own ‘family life’, he can be said to be the protagonist. Few years into shifting to America, Ajay’s elder brother, Birju, meets an accident, and is on bed for the rest of his life, after which, his father takes to drinking, and his mother begins praying to God for aid, and then begins the life of a dysfunctional family which Ajay dislikes.
To add flavour to his life, Ajay whispers ‘I Love You’ to girls in his school corridor and leaves them notes in their lockers. A while later, his trick works out and Meenakshi returns his love, but not for long, when she finds someone else in Virgina, and in the end, Ajay finds Hema.
Speaking of the end, I felt that the end was quite hurried. As if the author was restricted till page till page 228. In one paragraph I read Ajay is a graduate, in the next he becomes an investment banker and in the next he sends his mother a cheque of a quater of a million, and finally he finds Hema in the last.
And with the last line, the author has left it upon the readers to interpret the ending as and how we please.
In short: I would not say this book is a must read and neither will I tell you to avoid it. The strong narrative and bold voice can keep readers on the hook. And if you are a new reader and haven’t read great works by other writers, you can go for this, and trust me, you will like the book very much then (I repeat only if you are a new reader).
For the first 3/4th of the book, I completely agree with Gary Shteyngart:
“Family Life will cut your heart to pieces but it will also make you rejoice. The language, the humor, the sophistication, the empathy, the insight—all signal a new kind of literature about families and the bonds with which they hold us tight.”