Family Life

A Novel

Sharma, Akhil, 1971-

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Family Life
Ajay and Birju play cricket in the streets of Delhi, waiting for the day their plane tickets will arrive. Finally joining their father in America, Ajay and Birju enjoy their new, extraordinary life in New York. Then tragedy strikes, leaving one brother incapacitated and the other practically orphaned in this strange land.

Published: New York :, W.W. Norton & Company,, [2014]
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 0393060055
Branch Call Number: F SHA
Characteristics: 218 pages :,illustrations,,22 cm


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Mar 10, 2015
  • ktallent rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Somber but sweet novel about a boy dealing with a family crisis. Several crises, actually.

Written in a simple straight forward style, Family Life is deceptive. There is much more lurking beneath the simple prose.

And that last line, I'm still working my way through it.

Mar 02, 2015
  • brangwinn rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I read this book in one day. The writing was so powerful and poignant in the story of Ajay, who was born in Delhi, India, but grew up in America, that I was drawn into his life as he struggled to make a place for himself. A father who was a drunk, an older brother who required round the clock care for the rest of his life after a near drowning, a mother who took care of his invalid brother and an American culture that was so different that what his Indian heritage expected of him caused a lot of sadness as well as humor, particularly as he searched for girlfriends in high school. I was just as impressed with this book as I was with Sharma’s An Obedient Father.

Nov 28, 2014
  • multcolib_darceem rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Family life is an excruciatingly honest book. It’s insightful, funny and messy. It’s tragic and hard to pull away from. It’s a lot like family.

Oct 12, 2014
  • uncommonreader rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book has an interesting style and technique - the voice of the child narrating the story flattens it out - and it has a strong impact on the reader. It is about many things - the immigrant experience, the American dream, devastation and loneliness.

Oct 06, 2014

This slim novel packs a huge emotional punch. You can read it in an afternoon, it'll draw you in so thoroughly into its anguishing world that you'll find it difficult to seamlessly move back into your own reality. Most of us can't begin to fathom the experience of living with a brain-damaged sibling day in and day out. The novel chronicles what this feels like for the younger brother, how he has to handle his own emotions, make sense of his parents' reactions, and then navigate the external world of schoolmates, neighbors, acquaintances. The stricken family alternately becomes shunned and sought after simply because they have a brain-dead child. The father buckles under all the pressure and becomes an alcoholic, and the mother suffers daily heartbreak and indignity with no outlet for her own emotions save for outbursts at her younger son. The prose is spare and direct, with a cumulative power that make this an unsettling, sobering, worthwhile read.

Aug 20, 2014
  • Lucilu2 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Very engaging story.

Jul 10, 2014
  • Rebecca75 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I read this on recommendation from a magazine. I was hesitant because I had lost my brother to an accident and thought this would be depressing. Although sad, I found it comforting to read because I related to the emotions shared in the book.

Jul 06, 2014
  • finn75 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Brilliant. An Indian family moves to America to create a new life only for it to fall to pieces due to an accident. All of this is seen through the eyes of the younger son who is asked to grow up and deal with issues way beyond his understanding.

Jun 13, 2014

NYPL Staff Pick
There is no shortage of books about the trials and tribulations of immigrants. So why should you read another one? Well, for one thing, maybe you can’t get enough immigrant stories. If so, then you’ll definitely want to read this one. Otherwise, you may want to read it because Sharma’s semi-autobiographical tale of the Mishra family moving to America in the 1970s is a moving, beautifully crafted portrait of displacement, assimilation and overcoming adversity.
- Wayne Roylance

May 20, 2014
  • sasie rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

The author tells a great story. Very enjoyable to read.


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