Family Life by Akhil Sharma, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Family Life

Family Life

4.7 4
by Akhil Sharma

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“Gorgeously tender at its core . . . beautiful, heartstopping. . . . Family Life really blazes.”—Sonali Deraniyagala, New York Times Book Review, front-page review

Hailed as a "supreme storyteller" (Philadelphia Inquirer) for his "cunning, dismaying and beautifully conceived" fiction (New York Times), Akhil Sharma is


“Gorgeously tender at its core . . . beautiful, heartstopping. . . . Family Life really blazes.”—Sonali Deraniyagala, New York Times Book Review, front-page review

Hailed as a "supreme storyteller" (Philadelphia Inquirer) for his "cunning, dismaying and beautifully conceived" fiction (New York Times), Akhil Sharma is possessed of a narrative voice "as hypnotic as those found in the pages of Dostoyevsky" (The Nation). In his highly anticipated second novel, Family Life, he delivers a story of astonishing intensity and emotional precision.

We meet the Mishra family in Delhi in 1978, where eight-year-old Ajay and his older brother Birju play cricket in the streets, waiting for the day when their plane tickets will arrive and they and their mother can fly across the world and join their father in America. America to the Mishras is, indeed, everything they could have imagined and more: when automatic glass doors open before them, they feel that surely they must have been mistaken for somebody important. Pressing an elevator button and the elevator closing its doors and rising, they have a feeling of power at the fact that the elevator is obeying them. Life is extraordinary until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother severely brain-damaged and the other lost and virtually orphaned in a strange land. Ajay, the family’s younger son, prays to a God he envisions as Superman, longing to find his place amid the ruins of his family’s new life.

Heart-wrenching and darkly funny, Family Life is a universal story of a boy torn between duty and his own survival.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The Mishra family has a harder time than most adjusting to a new life in America in the 1970s. Then, shortly after their arrival from India, older son Birju is hopelessly injured after a dive into a swimming pool goes wrong. Younger son Ajay grows up watching his mother and father become totally absorbed with caring for his brother. His father turns to alcohol; his mother heroically tries to cope but is ground down by her troubles and consumed by anger. Sharma writes as if he knows the subject from the inside out (which he does), and we feel both sympathy and embarrassment for Ajay growing up in an alien culture and awkwardly trying to fit in with other kids at school. By sheer force of will, Ajay grows up to become a successful adult. The one drawback is that the last few brief chapters feel rushed after the more deliberate pace of the rest of the novel, which leaves readers wanting to know more. VERDICT This brave and honest work offers an unsentimental look at growing up and overcoming adversity when family life is very difficult indeed. [See Prepub Alert, 10/14/13.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
Ann Packer
“There's nothing like the pleasure of being devastated by a short novel.Like Jhumpa Lahiri, Akhil Sharma writes of the Indian immigrant experience with great empathy and a complete lack of sentimentality. Family Life is a dark and thrilling accomplishment by a wildly gifted writer.”
Gary Shteyngart
“Family Life will cut your heart to pieces but it will also make you rejoice. The language, the humor, the sophistication, the empathy, the insight—all signal a new kind of literature about families and the bonds with which they hold us tight.”
Edmund White
“Family Life is a terse, devastating account of growing up as a brilliant outsider in American culture.It is a nearly perfect novel.”
Kiran Desai
“Sharma is a rare master at charting the frailties and failures, the cruelties and rages, the altering moods and contradictions, whims and perversities of a tragic cast of characters. But this most unsentimental writer leaves the reader, finally and surprisingly, moved.”
Molly Langmuir - Elle
“Bracingly vivid… Has the ring of all devastatingly good writing: truth.”
Nell Freudenberger
“An immigrant story like no other: funny and dark, unrelenting and above all, true.”
Meg Wolitzer - NPR
“[F]ine and memorable.”
Amie Barrodale - Vice
“If you're the betting type, put money on it: National Book Award, Pulitzer, and the Book Critic Circle-thingy. Akhil's in the running for a hat trick.”
Maddie Crum - Huffington Post
“A heartbreaking novel-from-life… [Sharma] takes after Hemingway, as each word of his brilliant novel feels deliberate, and each line is quietly moving.”
Angela Carone - San Diego Magazine
“An unsentimental, powerful portrait of immigrant life from an author who has been compared to Dostoyevsky.”
Stephen Lee - Entertainment Weekly
“Sharma spent 13 years writing this slim novel, and the effort shows in each lucid sentence and heartbreaking detail.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Surface simplicity and detachment are the hallmarks of this novel, but hidden within its small, unembellished container are great torrents of pity and grief. Sedulously scaled and crafted, it transforms the chaos of trauma into a glowing work of art.”
Mary Pols - People
“Dark humor twines through Sharma’s unforgettable story of survival and its costs.”
John Wray - Salon
“I lost all track of time while I was reading it, and felt by the end that I’d returned from a great and often harrowing journey… To my own surprise, I found myself renewed after reading it, and imbued with a feeling of hope.”
Jon Garelick - Boston Globe
“With his subtly drawn point of view—recreating the child’s perceptions but with the controlling sensibility of an adult intelligence—Sharma gives us a fully imagined world, both hard and consoling.”
Colson Whitehead -
“If it’s tragedy, why do I remember the jokes with such fondness? Most reviews of Family Life have adequately conveyed its harrowing cruelties. But since this Slate/Whiting project is intended to steer readers toward second novels they may have overlooked, I’d like to point out that beyond the sadness, the novel contains a deep, nourishing reservoir of grim humor, thanks to Ajay’s deadpan and dead-eyed perceptions.”
From the Publisher
“"Outstanding…Every page is alive and surprising, proof of [Sharma’s] huge, unique talent."—David Sedaris”
Sonali Deraniyagala - The New York Times Book Review
“Riveting… Sharma is compassionate but unflinching.”
New York Times Book Review
“Deeply unnerving and gorgeously tender.”
Kim Hubbard - People

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author

Akhil Sharma is the author of An Obedient Father, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award Stories. A native of Delhi, he lives in New York City and is an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark.

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Family Life 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this novel will appeal mostly to those interested in reading about the experience of Indian immigrants to the US. Simple details really illuminate the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is so dismaying to me that people who seem to finally get what they worked and dreamed for are ultimately unhappy
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, quick and easy to read. The story kept me interested to the very end. The Dad in the story dealed with the situation by drinking, the Mom by keeping the hopes alive so that left the younger son to deal with things on his own and he is quite young when the story begins. Their Indian culture is very complex and interesting. .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
the most honest, most natural writer