Dear Great Book Guru, What a beautiful weekend we just had! There were Mother’s Day celebrations throughout Sea Cliff- in its homes, restaurants, parks with blossoming trees and flowers everywhere. While at a lovely porch party, I overheard a conversation about a new novel recently reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review about an Indian American family. The review was very positive. Have you read it and, if so, would you recommend it? Sea Cliff Spring Sojourner
Dear SCS Sojourner, I spent part of this lovely weekend reading FAMILY LIFE by Akhil Sharma. While a quick read (only 220 pages long), this semi-autobiographical novel was deeply moving. It is 1979 and Ajay (our narrator), his older brother Birju, and their mother are preparing to leave India to join the boys’ father in America. The excitement of this move is vividly captured as is young Ajay’s realization that everything- good and bad- is about to change. The small apartment in Queens, the unaccustomed luxuries of libraries and the unending supply of hot water, the pain of playground bullying, new foods- all are described in exquisite detail. Shortly into the book, fourteen year-old Birju is accepted into the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, and the family feels their future is secured, their highest hopes realized. Within weeks their dreams and lives are shattered. Birju suffers a terrible accident that leaves him in a permanent vegetative state. The rest of the book describes the anger, pain, remorse, and, yes, guilt each family member feels. The Indian community is presented as yet another character as it too struggles to deal with this tragedy in its midst. An extraordinary book – highly recommended!