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Family Matters Paperback – November 18, 2003
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Set during the 1990s in an overcrowded and politically corrupt Bombay, Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters depicts a family being torn apart by lies, love, and its unresolved demons of the past. Nariman Vakeel is an aging patriarch whose advancing Parkinson's disease and its related complications threaten to destroy his large Parsi family. When Nariman breaks his ankle and becomes bedridden, his two stepchildren turn his care over to their half-sister, Roxanne, who lives in a two-room flat with her husband and two sons. What follows is each character's reaction to this situation, from Roxanne's husband's struggle to provide for his family without neglecting his conscience to their sons' coming of age in an era of uncertainty. Expertly interspersed between these dilemmas are Nariman's tortured remembrances of a forbidden love and its inescapable consequences ("no matter where you go in the world, there is only one story: of youth, and loss, and yearning for redemption. So we tell the same story, over and over. Just the details are different").
Family Matters is a compelling, emotional, and persuasive testimony to the importance of memories in every family's history. In a poetic style rich with detail, Mistry creates a world where fate dances with free will, and the results are often more familiar than anyone would ever care to admit. --Gisele Toueg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
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; he's 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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Concentrating more on the world writ small than on the broader, more expansive views of A Fine Balance, Mistry creates a number of vibrant and fully drawn characters. Nariman Vakeel, recalling his dreams and disappointments, his 11-year love for Lucy Braganza, and his disastrous arranged marriage, is touching in his neediness and in his apologetic helplessness. His grandchildren delight in his stories and seek ways to help out; Roxana makes do in every way possible, tending to Nariman's most personal needs; and Yezad, frustrated by the lack of financial support from Coomy and Jal and a job in which he is underpaid, feels jealous of the old man's claims on Roxana. Mistry's dialogue, the subtle and not-so-subtle undercurrents it reflects, the often humorous interactions, the honest but naïve motivations of some of the characters, and the meticulously depicted and subtle decline of the family are the work of a master.
The one jarring note for me was the use of Shiv Sena, a fanatic political/religious group, as a motif thoughout the novel, their threats, extortion, violence, and fundamentalist rhetoric intruding periodically (and often dramatically) on the lives of the characters. While this obviously broadens the scope of the novel and offers a context in which to evaluate Coomy's religiosity, the fears of small businessmen like Yezad and his boss, and Yezad's eventual conflicts with one of his sons, it felt contrived to me, too strong and too obvious in what is otherwise a novel of more subtle interactions. Mary Whipple
Behind the riots was the Shiv Sena, a Hindu supremacist band of thugs, whose agenda includes abolishing Valentine's Day, razing mosques and, according to writer Rohinton Mistry, "subjecting innocent letters and postcards to incineration if the address reads Bombay instead of Mumbai." Such is the cultural and political backdrop of this exciting new novel by Mistry.
Any novel set in Bombay must be as vast as the city. Mistry's knowledge of its customs, locales and languages is encyclopedic, his cast of characters panoramic, and his portrayal of Indian attitudes spot on. Indians perceive the use of toilet paper as unhygienic; they often converse in trite proverbs, and their attitude toward the West is decidedly conflicted. So is their attitude toward India, a great country and a "hopeless" one. Indians writing in English are producing some of today's most inspiring and original fiction, and I strongly recommend this one.