Roy’s God of Small Things

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

I read the God of Small Things almost fifteen years ago, so let’s be honest, my memory is a bit hazy. I remember being blown away that it was a first novel, but in hindsight, that may have been naïve. Its complex narrative structure, following twins in two parallel story lines, full throated investigation into the social ills of India, including the caste system, misogyny, and more, and its gorgeous prose could only have been the work of someone who labored over every page for years and years as an inspiring novelist would. I remember feeling like the prose was beautiful and the sense of place illuminating, but the political message a bit too polemic. Still, an important book on the nature of love and politics in India. Worth your time,


Akhil Sharma’s Family Life

Family Life

Akhil Sharma

A slender, devastating book about family, immigration, childhood, and trauma. I could not put it down.

This is the story of the Mishra family, who immigrate from India, full of hopes and ambitions, and fall victim to a terrible, unexpected injury to one of their sons.  The immigration, and the injury, occur in the early pages of the book. The meat is in how the family deals with the sudden change in fortune.  How the father struggles with the destruction of his American dream, how the mother handles the care of a disabled child, how the brother handles the expectations of being the family’s hope.

It is a story the resonates as real – both tragic and darkly funny. At times uplifting, perhaps, but not in the way you’d expect.

The story is compelling, but what makes this book special is Sharma’s total grasp of the novel’s form. The book feels nearly perfectly assembled. At less than 200 pages, its slim, but it feels nearly perfectly assembled. Every sentence serves a purpose; each plot point is neatly introduced, elaborated upon, and resolved. Indeed, if I have a criticism of the book, it’s that it’s too perfect, in its razor sharp depictions of the messiness of life, it can feel a bit anti-septic. But “your book is too well written” is kind of a bullshit critique.

If fine writing is you game, check this one out.