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Family Life (2014)

by Akhil Sharma

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5522644,569 (3.44)39
Finally joining their father in America, Ajay and Birju enjoy their new, extraordinary life until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother incapacitated and the other practically orphaned in this strange land.
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    Bed by David Whitehouse (akblanchard)
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English (24)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Funny and sad growing-up story of a boy who has moved from India to NJ with his family. ( )
  steve02476 | Jan 3, 2023 |
A beautiful and hard book. A rare example for me where knowing why/how he wrote it expanded my understanding and appreciation. The chapter on him using Hemingway to write is fascinating. The complexities of his relationships with his parents and brother are rich and brutal. His creation of self is fascinating. I came to this book having read an excerpt years ago in the New Yorker; it stuck with me. The book will stick with me even more. ( )
  eas7788 | Aug 17, 2022 |
This is an amazing book. The prose are so tender, startling in their brevity. The author details a life of immense pain, longing and lonliness. Throughout the humanity of the characters brings about a sense of healing and acceptance within the family, which can be understood by all those who have known suffering. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
It’s the late 1970s, and Ajay Mishra and his family are Indian immigrants to the United States. Soon after Ajay’s older brother Birju is accepted to a prestigious prep school in the Bronx, he has an accident at a swimming pool and becomes immobile and unable to communicate, requiring full-time care. After the traumatic event and ensuing financial difficulties, Ajay’s father begins to drink heavily.

The inevitable process of Americanization tugs at Ajay as he tries to fit in at school. But pulling him in the opposite direction are the strong cultural mores and class divisions that persist among the other Indian immigrants with whom the Mishras primarily associate. Ajay’s behavior at school becomes obnoxious - he boasts and lies and insults others - and consequently he has difficulty making friends, despite being in the top of his class academically.

Sharma writes like a more emotionally adept Hemingway (and in fact he gives Ajay a temporary obsession with Hemingway’s style and his faults). The author uses short, swift, plain strokes to uncover personal and societal hypocrisy, cruelty, and contradiction. With rare self-awareness (almost unbelievable at times, but it works because older Ajay is writing from his already-came-of-age perspective), Ajay lays bare his own mixed emotions and motives about taking care of Birju, finding a girlfriend, being a good son, and going to AA meetings with his father. (Although he is glad his father decides to stop drinking, he finds the vulnerability of the alcoholics at the meetings unseemly and weak.) Without any complaint from the narrator, I found myself angry with his family, especially his mother, for setting him up to feel like he can never do anything right, can never be happy.

In turns hilarious and heartbreaking - and with a humdinger of a last sentence that set me cursing at the acknowledgements page for not being more story - Family Life is a beautiful picture of an immigrant family in the throes of both cultural assimilation and personal tragedy. ( )
  rhowens | Nov 26, 2019 |
It is a silent, powerful story about a family building their life in the States, exploring the dark side of emigration against the backdrop of personal tragedy.

For a complete review please click on the link below:

http://onerightword.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/family-life-akhil-sharma.html
( )
  ashkrishwrites | Aug 29, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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My father has a glum nature.
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Finally joining their father in America, Ajay and Birju enjoy their new, extraordinary life until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother incapacitated and the other practically orphaned in this strange land.

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