Family Matters Paperback – Feb 25 2003
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For Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry puts his own spin on Tolstoy's maxim that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The result is a thoroughly absorbing tale about matters of family, told with wise, gentle humour. In the early 1990s, Hindu fundamentalists, the Shiv Sena, razed the Babri mosque, a Muslim holy site in the Indian city of Ayodhya. This incident and the bloody inter-religious strife it precipitated form the novel's political background, which encroaches on the realm of personal ethics with dire and unforeseen consequences.
Family Matters, which follows upon Mistry's much lauded novels, Such a Long Journey and A Fine Balance, is a modern take on King Lear set in the roiling multicultural bustle of Bombay. Mistry's Lear is Nariman Vakeel, an elderly widower of the Parsi minority, who lives with his two middle-aged stepchildren, the embittered Coomy and her decent but spineless sister, Jal. When Nariman breaks his leg, Coomy and Jal conspire to off-load him onto their younger half-sister, the good-hearted Roxana, whose family is barely making ends meet as it is.
Mistry engages all the family members in the telling of his saga. Entering the interior world of each character, he presents a richly textured portrait of how a family copes or fails to cope with the messes and smells of an infirm member, about the friable brink of poverty that can leave one vulnerable to the seduction of the quick fix, about the corruptive power of bitterness, about how room can always be made in the human heart. A less compelling subplot involving Roxana's husband Yezad aside, the undeniable fulcrum of both the family and the narrative remains the charismatic and wise patriarch, Nariman. Tortured by regret, haunted by memories that, despite the decrepitude of his body, will not be repressed, he will surely leave an indelible mark on readers of this novel about how family truly does matter. --Diana Kuprel --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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 the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The only reason I gave this only 4 stars is because I have read Mistry's other books and this one is not quite as good. For one of the greatest books I have ever read, check out A Fine Balance.
Like a long, sinuous shot in the opening scene of a movie, Mistry plunges readers into 1990s Mumbai. No sooner do we have our bearings, though, than the family intrigue begins. Nariman’s health is in decline. He lives in the comfortable surroundings of his familial home, Chateau Felicity, along with his stepchildren Coomy and Jal. It is a situation Coomy resents, however, and when he suffers a fall she uses it as an excuse to move him to her stepsister’s - Nariman’s natural daughter’s - smaller and more cramped two bedroom home.
Nariman's biological daughter, Roxana, her husband Yezad and two young boys (Murad and Jehangir) live a short distance away, and his arrival brings out both the best and worst in their family. It strains their finances, cramps their space, and puts demands on their daily routine, and it precipitates some poor choices - especially by Yezad’s - with disastrous consequences. Paradoxically, though, the family treat’s Nariman with a humanity that was lacking at his step-daughter’s, and he is happy there.
Family history is unveiled bit by bit via daydreams, recollections and dialogue, which adds context to the present day’s unfolding events. Mistry’s strong writing skills foster a sense of intimacy with the family, even as we simultaneously get caught up in the sweeping vastness of India and its culture and current events.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A warm look into the life, joys and struggles of a Bombay family. Very insightful and moving with thoughtful descriptions.Published 2 months ago by connie epp
The colorful characters could be from any culture yet the author has added Bombay's unique flavor to the story. I loved this book and could not put it down. Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2006 by Amazonisawesome