Review of 'Family Matters'

Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry

family_matters.jpg In 1990s Bombay Nariman Vikeel is a 79-year-old man suffering from Parkinson's disease living with his step-children Coomy and Jal in their large apartment. After insisting on regular walks on the dangerous streets of Bombay one day Nariman suffers a fall resulting in his being confined to bed. Unable to deal with the burden (notably including emptying his bedpan), Coomy and Jal hatch a scheme to force Nariman's daughter Roxanna, who lives with her husband Yezad and their two young sons in a tiny apartment, to take Nariman into their care. Nariman is initially welcomed into their household but soon cracks begin to appear as the financial pressure comes to bear, threatening to tear the family apart.

The first part of the book focuses on Nariman's accident and eventual impact on the family's lives while in the second part the narrative moves onto Yezad's life as a salesman in a local sports shop. Seeing his situation as largely insufficient to support their forcefully expanded household Yezad comes up with a plan involving getting his employer to take action, but the best laid plans…

An interesting, easy to read, story from modern India that takes us into the personal lives of a family simply struggling to get by and live whose lives are dramatically impacted when a much loved relative falls sick and requiring personal care none are comfortable giving. It is a story of love and compassion but it is also a story of selfishness and tragedy. This is a story of real people who have their needs and desires yet trying to do what is traditionally “right” by their family in a world where this is less and less important.

The book does tend to drag a bit throughout but it is full of interesting characters with a story that keeps you guessing up to the final pages (and even then…). We see the story from a number of different perspectives which causes us to question what we believe about each character and their actions, none of which are entirely “bad” or entirely “good”: They are merely the typical actions of humans with elements of both. This is a book of real life and real people struggling to make their way. Do not expect a happy ending!

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2020-12-29

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Faber and Faber

Publication Date: 2002

ISBN: 0571194273