cover image Family Planning

Family Planning

Karan Mahajan, . . Harper Perennial, $13.95 (266pp) ISBN 978-0-06-153725-7

The patriarch of a chaotic family living in a hectic land must come to terms with himself and what he’s wrought at home and at work in this excellent debut. Rakesh Ahuja battles the twin bedlams of his sprawling family and overcrowded home city of New Delhi while simultaneously trying to save his career as the minister of urban development. Rakesh attempts to manipulate and cajole his way through the corrupt and sometimes illogical Indian civil service, often finding himself embroiled in absurd intrigues. Home is no less fraught, where his 13 children battle each other for their often-absent father’s love. The lone exception is Arjun, the eldest, whose adolescent rebellion and nascent romantic inclinations prompt him to form a rock band and pull away from his frenetic family. As Rakesh clumsily reaches out to his first-born son, the twists of fate that shaped both their lives are revealed, providing a portrait of a family that is both comical and heartbreaking. Mahajan’s effortless blending of comedy and tragedy is irresistible and should help his book stand out. (Dec.)