Family Life by Akhil Sharma

This novel is about a boy called Ajay Mishra and his family. At the start of the book, they live in Delhi, India; however, early in the story they immigrate to the United States. At first they live in Queens, and then they live in Virginia and New Jersey. The story starts in the 1970’s and then moves forward to the present. In addition to having to adjust to their new life in America, the family has to come to terms with a tragedy and its after effects.

I liked this book very much. I would highly recommend it. It does a great job of evoking the immigrant experience in America: the novelty of life here (there is a funny bit about hot dogs), the adjustment to living in a modernized country (his surprise at seeing hot water come from a tap), and the sense of being overwhelmed by materialist America culture (just walking through a grocery store). He also describes his commitment to doing well in school in order to making it in America and his feelings of social exclusion at school that come from being “different from everyone else”. He describes the way in which his family tries to maintain their cultural and religious traditions in the U.S., and their relations with the rest of the immigrant Indian community where they live.

The book is also a coming of age story for Ajay, as the book starts when he is in third grade and follows him until after college. The saddest part of the book deals with the family’s tragedy and the way each of them reacts to it. It is very realistic, and makes you feel how it would be to have your family’s life turned upside down. On top of all of this, the book does a very good job of describing what it is like to struggle with a substance abuse problem. I think this book is very well written and discusses many important themes.

Posted by
June 7, 2016

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