Family Life by Akhil Sharma

famil y life

This novel won the prestigious Dublin International Literary Award 2016 and it is easy to see how it made an impact on the judges. It is a work of amazing power. The language is spare and clean, without any flourishes.

The story is heart breaking and all the more devastating for being delivered in the sparse, cool medium of Sharma’s prose. Reading this work is not easy, from an emotional point of view and it is unflinching in its depiction of the effects of a catastrophic event on a family. While reading this book, I swung between, hope, despair, pity and frustration- mirroring the feelings of Ajay, the young protagonist. Sharma is to be commended for his brave and honest exposition of this tragedy. Apart from the central event, he also touches on the immigrant experience, through the eyes of a child. Sharma has said that it took him over 10 years to write this novel, but it was well worth the wait, on the reader’s part .

A word of caution about this book, be prepared to go through the emotional wringer with this.  “Family Life” is not of the category of a “holiday read” and certainly not light reading but in its merciless engagement with its central topic, it has the power to move you like few other novels. Reading it is a profound experience, you are not likely to forget this book.


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