Folio Prize for Fiction (2015)
Family Life found a place in my reading list when I read a few raving reviews about it on few of my favorite book blogs . I was determined to track down a copy and read it when I get a chance. There were innumerable occasions when I almost bought a copy, but then restrained myself from buying it at the last moment.
Family Life reminded me of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake about Indian immigrants in America but the similarity between them ends there. Family Life is about two brothers Birju and Ajay who emigrated to America in their childhood with their Indian parents. I read it assuming it to be a work of fiction, but I learned later that this story is actually inspired by the author’s own life.
3 minutes is a time that passes away so fast that we don’t even bother to keep a check on it in our daily existence, but that time became crucial for the Sharmas. 3 minutes is what it takes to overturn the Sharmas’ happy existence in America to a nightmare, when Birju laid in the bottom of a swimming pool unconscious after he hit his head in a diving accident. That incident left Birju brain damaged leaving his family to deal with the situation along with its financial and emotional repercussions.
Family Life is a tough novel to read and it would have been tougher to write. I am not surprised that it took Akhil almost 12 years to put this in shape considering the depth of the subject. This is a well written novel, but I did have some initial issues with the writing style. I was surprised by this experience because I had read that this book is engrossing from Page 1.
Family life is Ajay’s narration about the life before and after Birju’s accident, the whole book is written from his perspective – his honest thoughts about life before and after Birju’s accident. There are no heavily emotion laden words in this narration, Ajay mostly sticks to plain facts and leaves the rest to the reader.The character feels more realistic because Ajay is far from the innocent brother ignored by parents due to the invalid brother.
I wanted to love this book, but it never happened. But then when you start thinking of the story and the writing, I can clearly understand why this book was such a popular one. The premise of the story is too raw and disturbing and there is a stream of unending sorrows. Akhil Sharma handles all of them beautifully and makes this book a good read.
Family Life is depressing and I will give it 3.75/5,but I highly recommend that you read before you ignore it.
First published April 7th 2014