Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wise Tale of Family Life, 13 Nov 2002
This review is from: Family Matters (Paperback)
This novel takes place in Bombay in the mid-90s. While it's story makes many interesting specific statements about the politics and social climate of Parsi life in this time period, it holds timeless meanings for any family that exists anywhere in the world. This immensely readable novel tells the story of Nariman Vakeel in his last years and his relations with his two stepchildren Jal and Coomy, his daughter Roxana and her family. Nariman, debilitated by Parkinson's, has come to a point in his life where he can no longer take care of himself and so must rely on the attention of his children. Throughout the novel, we discover the details of Nariman's tragic past while we simultaneously experience the fascinating and harrowing trials his children undergo. As the family struggles to decide whose responsibility it is to care for the aging man, Roxana and her husband Yezad labor to make ends meet while raising two enduring boys. Yezad, whose dreams of an idyllic life in Canada are thwarted, works in a sporting goods shop and finds the amount of comfort he receives returning each day to a loving family decrease. Through several trials of transgression, the family learn that chance alone can calculate when their fortunes will arise. Peace is a certain uncertainty. The only times that are certain are fleeting moments of contentment wrought from loving gestures.
This is a beautiful and heartfelt novel. Mistry is thoroughly familiar with the tedious existence wrought from working in an uncreative job in order to keep the family going. (He worked in a bank for many years before beginning his writing career.) This is evident in Yezad's daily struggles. However, each character is sharply drawn making them seem instantly familiar as if they have long been a part of our own family. Therefore, the connections become extremely personal and during tender moments you may find yourself moved to tears like I was in one scene. The book also makes powerful statements about living in postcolonial India where the shadow of English culture still weighs over life. Yezad witnesses his son falling under the same amorous spell he submitted to as a child reading heroic novels about an England that only exists as an idea of England. Family life according to Rohinton Mistry is not a happy matter, but it is enlightening, complex, rewarding and surprisingly rich.
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