Family Life

Akhil Sharma, Author
Akhil Sharma. Norton, $23.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-393-06005-8
Reviewed on: 12/09/2013
Release date: 04/01/2014
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-0-571-22453-1
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-393-35060-9
Hardcover - 210 pages - 978-0-571-31426-3
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-393-24231-7
Hardcover - 268 pages - 978-1-4104-7087-4
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The immigrant experience has been documented in American literature since those first hardy souls landed at Plymouth, and as the immigrants keep coming, so too do their stories. Sharma (An Obedient Father), who acknowledges the autobiographical elements in his new novel, tells a simple but layered tale of assimilation and adaptation. The Mishras come to America in the late-1970s, the father first, in the wake of new U.S. immigration laws and the Indian Emergency, when the narrator, Ajay, is eight, and his brother Birju is 12. There are lovely scenes of their life in Delhi before they leave, the mother making wicks from the cotton in pill bottles, the parade of neighbors when their plane tickets to America arrive. Sharma captures the experience for Ajay of being transported to a different country: the thrill of limitless hot water flowing from a tap; the trauma of bullies at school; the magic of snow falling; watching Birju, the favored son, studying hours each day and spending entire weekends preparing for the entrance exam at the prestigious Bronx High School of Science. Then a terrible tragedy irreparably alters the family and their fortunes. Sharma skillfully uses this as another window into the Indian way of accepting and dealing with life. A loving portrait, both painful and honest. (Apr.)
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