Review of Family Life by Akhil Sharma

family life

Jonathan Franzen from Vogue India calls Akhil Sharma “a terrific writer” and I couldn’t agree more with him. This is the first time I have read a book by Akhil Sharma and I am smitten by his style of writing. It is a book worth buying for and I would be definitely reading more books by the author.

The blurb: It is a story of a family who immigrated to USA at a time when India was experiencing the Emergency period. A simple family of four is fascinated by the lifestyle of America and tries to learn the same and adapt themselves to the western lifestyle so that they can fit into the society. The two children are Birju and Ajay. Birju being the eldest is given the responsibility to take care of Ajay while their parents are at work. They live in a tiny one bedroom flat in New York and have to face racism at school. Like all Asian children both Birjua and Ajay are forced to work hard and excel in life. Birju’s hard work pays off and he gets admission in the prestigious school, “Bronx High School of Science”.

The family is overjoyed but the happiness does not last so long. Birju has a swimming accident and suffers brain injuries and is declared brain dead by the doctors. He lost his vision and is confined to the bed for life time. The family tries to cope with the tragedy but as the day passes it becomes even more difficult to stay strong and not to give up. Arjun’s world is completely shattered; his father starts drinking and his mother is always busy in taking care of his brother. He seems to be alone in this world and is broken in millions of ways. His relationship with his father is not very good and he is in fact ashamed of him. He fights with other students at school and skips from one girl to another. Ajay has to bear the guilt and lives with this burden throughout his life.
Review: The book has been written in first person with Ajay being the main character in book. To read and experience everything from a child perspective is a different experience for me. The way he feels happy when he comes to know that his brother had an accident and now he will be the only son. Only a child can be ignored and forgiven for having such thoughts. Lots of books have been written about the immigrants but the way author has described the problem faced by Indian immigrants in USA is admirable. The novel is about family’s attempts to cope with tragedy.
The novel is far from being a tear-jerker. It is detached and deeply felt, witty and heart-breaking. It is a novel that may have special appeal for those who have spent many years looking after incurable relatives, and who discover that, even after such an ordeal, they can still find joy and meaning in life. I think this is the main reason why I like reading this novel because I have experienced something similar in my life and to feel that someone else out there could understand what I am going through makes me feel a bit better.

This book is a must buy not only for those who have experienced any such tragedy in their lives but also for those who have been lucky enough to have a happy life as it would give them a clear understanding what the people actually go through when tragedy strikes their lives. May be then others will more understanding in their behavior and instead of sympathizing they would actually support them.

Author: Akhil Sharma

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: Fiction/Family Drama


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