Rohinton Mistry's enthralling novel is at once a domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson's disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in the inaptly named Chateau Felicity), but are too squeamish and resentful to tend to his physical needs.
Nariman must now turn to his younger daughter, Roxana, her husband, Yezad, and their two sons, who share a small, crowded home. Their decision will test not only their material resources but, in surprising ways, all their tolerance, compassion, integrity, and faith. Sweeping and intimate, tragic and mirthful, Family Matters is a work of enormous emotional power.
"Mistry's flawless style and absolute yet inconspicuous command of character, place, and story made prizewinners of his previous novels, including A Fine Balance (1996). He now presents a magnetic tale of family obligations that comes as close to perfect as a novel can get. The setting is the ever-hectic city of Bombay during a 1990s wave of violent religious extremism, and the focus is on an extended Parsi family suffering the long-term consequences of a Juliet and Romeo^-like tragedy. Septuagenarian widower Nariman survived the catastrophic love affair, but Parkinson's disease is now eroding his health and autonomy, forcing him to confront his guilt over capitulating to his family's vehement objections to the non-Parsi love of his life and entering into an unhappy arranged marriage with a Parsi widow with two children. Nariman and his wife had one daughter together, the sweet-natured Roxana, who lives joyfully in a tiny apartment on a tight budget with her two magnificent sons and loving husband, while regretful Nariman lives in an enormous but neglected flat with his deeply resentful stepdaughter and lazy and timid stepson. These two diametrically opposed households collide when Nariman becomes bed-ridden, an event that places incalculable emotional, physical, and financial strains on everyone, causing even the scrupulously honest to cheat, and exposing the hypocrisy of religious beliefs that cause strife instead of fostering tolerance and generosity. A discerning social observer and master dramatist, Mistry evokes laughter and tears as he spins the great wheel of human life and charts the soul's confusion and the body's decline, the endless cycle of repeated mistakes and failures of heart, and, yes, the radiant revelations of love. Donna Seaman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Warm, humane, tender and bittersweet are not the words one would expect to describe a novel that portrays a society where the government is corrupt, the standard of living is barely above poverty level and religious, ethnic and class divisions poison the community. Yet Mistrys compassionate eye and his ability to focus on the small decencies that maintain civilization, preserve the family unit and even lead to happiness attest to his masterly skill as a writer who makes sense of the world by using laughter, as one of his characters observes. Bombay in the mid-1990s, a once-elegant city in the process of deterioration, is mirrored in the physical situation of elderly retired professor Nariman Vakeel, whose body is succumbing to the progressive debilitation of Parkinsons disease. Narimans apartment, which he shares with his two resentful, middle-aged stepchildren, is also in terrible disrepair. But when an accident forces him to recuperate in the tortuously crowded apartment that barely accommodates his daughter Roxana, her husband and two young boys, family tensions are exacerbated and the limits of responsibility and obligation are explored with a full measure of anguish. In the ensuing situation, everyones behavior deteriorates, and the affecting secret of Narimans thwarted lifetime love affair provides a haunting leitmotif. Light moments of domestic interaction, a series of ridiculous comic situations, ironic juxtapositions and tenderly observed human eccentricities provide humorous relief, as the author of A Fine Balance again explores the tightrope act that constitutes life on this planet. Mistry is not just a fiction writer; hes a philosopher who finds meaning-$indeed, perhaps a divine plan"in small human interactions. This beautifully paced, elegantly expressed novel is notable for the breadth of its vision as well as its immensely appealing characters and enticing plot. 75,000 first printing; BOMC, Literary Guild and QPB alternates; 7-city author tour. (Oct. 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved