Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Family Life: A Novel Hardcover – April 7, 2014
The Eagle Tree
A young boy must fight to protect what he loves, but can he do it without risking his family?Learn More
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
“There's nothing like the pleasure of being devastated by a short novel. Like Jhumpa Lahiri, Akhil Sharma writes of the Indian immigrant experience with great empathy and a complete lack of sentimentality. Family Life is a dark and thrilling accomplishment by a wildly gifted writer.” (Ann Packer)
“Family Life will cut your heart to pieces but it will also make you rejoice. The language, the humor, the sophistication, the empathy, the insight—all signal a new kind of literature about families and the bonds with which they hold us tight.” (Gary Shteyngart)
“Bracingly vivid… Has the ring of all devastatingly good writing: truth.” (Molly Langmuir - Elle)
“Family Life is a terse, devastating account of growing up as a brilliant outsider in American culture. It is a nearly perfect novel.” (Edmund White)
“Sharma is a rare master at charting the frailties and failures, the cruelties and rages, the altering moods and contradictions, whims and perversities of a tragic cast of characters. But this most unsentimental writer leaves the reader, finally and surprisingly, moved.” (Kiran Desai)
“An immigrant story like no other: funny and dark, unrelenting and above all, true.” (Nell Freudenberger)
“A loving portrait, both painful and honest.” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review)
“[F]ine and memorable.” (Meg Wolitzer - NPR)
“If you're the betting type, put money on it: National Book Award, Pulitzer, and the Book Critic Circle-thingy. Akhil's in the running for a hat trick.” (Amie Barrodale - Vice)
“A heartbreaking novel-from-life… [Sharma] takes after Hemingway, as each word of his brilliant novel feels deliberate, and each line is quietly moving.” (Maddie Crum - Huffington Post)
“An unsentimental, powerful portrait of immigrant life from an author who has been compared to Dostoyevsky.” (Angela Carone - San Diego Magazine)
“Sharma spent 13 years writing this slim novel, and the effort shows in each lucid sentence and heartbreaking detail.” (Stephen Lee - Entertainment Weekly)
“Surface simplicity and detachment are the hallmarks of this novel, but hidden within its small, unembellished container are great torrents of pity and grief. Sedulously scaled and crafted, it transforms the chaos of trauma into a glowing work of art.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Dark humor twines through Sharma’s unforgettable story of survival and its costs.” (Mary Pols - People)
“I lost all track of time while I was reading it, and felt by the end that I’d returned from a great and often harrowing journey… To my own surprise, I found myself renewed after reading it, and imbued with a feeling of hope.” (John Wray - Salon)
“With his subtly drawn point of view—recreating the child’s perceptions but with the controlling sensibility of an adult intelligence—Sharma gives us a fully imagined world, both hard and consoling.” (Jon Garelick - Boston Globe)
“If it’s tragedy, why do I remember the jokes with such fondness? Most reviews of Family Life have adequately conveyed its harrowing cruelties. But since this Slate/Whiting project is intended to steer readers toward second novels they may have overlooked, I’d like to point out that beyond the sadness, the novel contains a deep, nourishing reservoir of grim humor, thanks to Ajay’s deadpan and dead-eyed perceptions.” (Colson Whitehead - Slate.com)
“Gorgeous.” (Kim Hubbard - People)
Top Customer Reviews
The story proper begins in Delhi, India. Mr. Mishra, a gloomy accountant, dreams of moving his family --- his wife and two young sons, Birju, and Ajay, the book’s narrator --- to an idealized America after the 1965 loosening of U.S. immigration laws. However, it isn’t until the mid-1970s nightmare of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency,” during which she “suspended the constitution and put thousands of people in jail,” that Ajay’s father is finally compelled to apply for a visa. Though nobody else in his family shares his enthusiasm, he leaves and lands in Queens, where he sets himself up as a clerk at a government agency. He sends for his family a year later. But before they leave, Sharma shifts the focus back to the remaining family members’ last days in Delhi, capturing the simplicities of the Mishras’ meager existence, the intricacies of class relations in Indian culture, and a growing realization in Ajay of what they’re all on the brink of losing in fluid, vivid, emotionally resonant prose --- a trait Sharma maintains throughout the book.
When they do arrive, Sharma movingly and humorously describes the astonishment the newcomers feel on landing in a place of such unimaginable largesse: wall-to-wall carpeting, hot water from a tap, almost non-stop television.Read more ›
Ajay is a child when the tragedy occurs. In wry twists he admits his occasional resentment of the tragedy. Other times he reveals an unsavory hunger to be the celebrity brother of fate. Yet overall he cares deeply for his family. Sometimes he speaks with a God dressed in contemporary clothing. He finds no answers there, "Even if I told you something, I might change my mind." Cast adrift, Ajay discovers that a life devoted writing is possible, and the world changes for him.
Ajay takes the reader with him, and the reader cannot but help feeling great affection for this young boy. His speech is darkly humorous at times. He can be selfish and he can be be grandiose. But all of his thoughts carry the authenticity of a person being strictly honest with himself. The author achieves this without stooping to preciousness or drama. Somehow even in the everyday, the story holds us enmeshed with the reality of life after a fatal three minutes changes everything.
When their father finally does send their plane tickets, and they are forced to give away almost all of their possessions in preparation, Ajay begins to wonder whether migrating to America is really worth it.
"Till then, I had not fully understood that going to America meant leaving India."
Life in Queens, New York was different than they imagined. But Birju quickly acclimates to school and friends, while sensitive, needy Ajay has trouble making friends and feeling a part of his new home. And despite his family's new wealth, his parents' marriage struggles as well, since his mother, who had been an economics teacher in India, was forced to take a menial job in a factory.
"My father, who had seemed pointless in India, had brought us to America, and made us rich. What he had done was undeniable. He now seemed mysterious, like he was a different person, someone who looked like my father but was not the same man."
Birju gets accepted into the Bronx High School of Science, which buoys the family. Then without warning, tragedy strikes—an accident leaves Birju with a severe brai injury and little to no hope of recovery. The family is utterly despondent and unsure how to move on, day in and day out, between the mounting bills for Birju's care, first at the hospital and then in a nursing home, to their concerns about the quality of care he is getting in the nursing home.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A bit like to rest of the books written by immigrants in US. But well written and moving.Published 2 months ago by Indrani Chowdhury
I think i would have appreciated it more if the author would have written something nonfiction, just seemed like a waste of time for a novel. Nothing about it was compelling.Published 3 months ago by Brianna
The start is good
But it deteriorates along the way
And the ending was actually nothing ( you will understand once you reach it )
The writer actually... Read more
Slow moving thinly veiled memoir of life in America as an immigrant outsider whose family endures an accident that will radically change and mark their lives foreverPublished 4 months ago by sra Chicago
This absolutely brilliant book belongs on everyone's must read list. I couldn't wrench my eyes away from the text, and the characters lived with me all day (and still live with... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Elf
This was a very fast and easy read. Very insightful into the life of a young immigrant family from India to the US in the 1970s and 1980s. Read morePublished 4 months ago by A. Brady
I bought this book after David Sedaris brought the writer on stage and had him read a snippet. The snippet Sharma read was really funny, so I bought this book. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Lara Beth