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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Friday, June 12, 2015

Quibbles about the conclusion, but still impressed by Sharma's Family Life

Akhil Sharma's generally excellent novel, Family Life, unfortunately hurtles to a conclusion - almost as if Sharma had a deadline imposed by an editor or agent that he was rushing to meet or that he'd missed, or else that, Tristram Shandy-like, he realized that if he proceeded at the slow and meticulous pace he'd established he would never complete the arc of his story or, most likely, he had a great set-up but, like far too many novelists, didn't quite know how to bring his narrative to denouement and conclusion. Most of the book is terrific - he describes in exquisitely painful detail how the accident that left his older brother near comatose destroyed not only his brother's promising life but his father's - driven ever deeper into alcoholism - and drew away all the attention and devotion that his mother had to offer - leaving the young narrator, Ajay - if many hints in the novel are accurate, apparently this is a partially autobiographical story, more than most novels, isolated and insecure - a condition made even more acute by his being in a clannish minority group - Indian immigrants - and unable to make many friends in school. At some point near the end the narrative began to feel rather static - Sharma must have felt the same - and he rushes it forward, in short order bring Ajay to his first high-school girlfriend, to acceptance at Princeton, to his success in banking, to an abrupt and quite opaque conclusion. All that said, there are few novels like this one - a painful, unflinching examination of the effect of a tragic accident on others - I can compare it to a degree with The Dive From Clausen's Pier (what happened to the author of that? some writers, it seems, may have just one book in them - and that's maybe enough) - though that was less about immediate family and more about a circle of friends - and without the poignancy of the tragedy striking a family struggling to make it in a new culture.

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