I have always enjoyed a good dysfunctional family story. Somehow, I see my family in it. Somehow, it is true. All families are like that. There is always this undercurrent of tension, of nerves, of issues that are not spoken out loud, and of silences.
“Family Life” is a book of grand proportions. It is also written with the objective, I think to let the reader fill in some spaces, and rightly so, I mean, after all, why should a writer spoon-feed the reader all the time?
Akhil Sharma’s writing is nothing like what I have read in the past. I wanted to read, “An Obedient Father” but never got around to it. So “Family Life” came by and was my first Sharma book. The book is about a family who moves to the US of A and how their lives change forever.
The Mishras (parents and two children, Birju and Ajay) move to America in the 70s, hoping and dreaming of a better life, getting away from the Emergency period in the country. America is full of hope and promise. Birju, the older one is the smart one – with the good grades and a great future, till an accident in the swimming-pool leaves him brain-damaged and Ajay is left to pick up the pieces of a life, torn apart. The father becomes a drunk. The mother loses sight of everything else and only wants to take care of Birju. Ajay on the other hand, does not know what to do and how to grow up in a strange country.
The book is dark. The writing is also funny at times. There were times I wish things would change for the family, but then it would not be the story that it is. Akhil Sharma weaves a story of too many layers – of ambition, loss, living, forgetting, escaping and the condition of the human heart in all of this. “Family Life” is a book for you, only if you want to know about a slice-of-life, close up and personal. A great read this summer.