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Family Matters PDF, ePub eBook Rohinton Mistry’s enthralling novel is at once a domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in t Rohinton Mistry’s enthralling novel is at once a domestic drama and an intently observed portrait of present-day Bombay in all its vitality and corruption. At the age of seventy-nine, Nariman Vakeel, already suffering from Parkinson’s disease, breaks an ankle and finds himself wholly dependent on his family. His step-children, Coomy and Jal, have a spacious apartment (in the inaptly named Chateau Felicity), but are too squeamish and resentful to tend to his physical needs. Nariman must now turn to his younger daughter, Roxana, her husband, Yezad, and their two sons, who share a small, crowded home. Their decision will test not only their material resources but, in surprising ways, all their tolerance, compassion, integrity, and faith. Sweeping and intimate, tragic and mirthful, Family Matters is a work of enormous emotional power.

30 review for Family Matters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Seemita

    The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of. Flipping through the pages, my heart leapt many times; those waves bearing the ring of countenance were from still stream but the ones with ripples of accusation roared thunder. Accusation? Accusation hurled towards whom? The fictional characters delicately brought to life by the stinging brush of the author or the guilty, manipulative, egocentric, conceited character of mine? Did my fingers pause typing these words defining myself? T The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of. Flipping through the pages, my heart leapt many times; those waves bearing the ring of countenance were from still stream but the ones with ripples of accusation roared thunder. Accusation? Accusation hurled towards whom? The fictional characters delicately brought to life by the stinging brush of the author or the guilty, manipulative, egocentric, conceited character of mine? Did my fingers pause typing these words defining myself? They did. And it also confirmed my worst fears: I am no angel and the pristine white enveloping me is a well-fabricated dwelling that I carry with temporary aplomb, aware somewhere deep inside that some of its bricks are turning cancerous by my vices. Why, else, should I feel tormented at the sight of a 78-year old, Parkinson’s afflicted Nariman Vakeel, whose profound literary mind is reduced to a negligible fraction, not by the disease and a broken leg but by the invalidating abandonment of Coomy and Jal, his step-children? Why, else, should I feel torn by the disintegrating domestic fabric of his other daughter, Roxana whose tireless strides of nursing her fragile father come at the cost of her husband, Yezad’s never-seen-before condescension? Why, else, should I feel numbed at the virtues of a nine-year old Jehangir who knows to read the silent whimpers of his grandpa with sensitivity far greater than his parents'? Why else, should I feel jealous of the wasted lottery seller, Villie, who carries behind her shabby attire and even shabbier house, a heart of gold that gladly spills over to brighten her neigbours’ gloomy lives? Why, else, should I envy Husain, the looted peon, who possesses a spirit so much greater than the loss he suffered at the hands of religious fanatics that his volatility alone is his purifying fragrance? Why, else, should I feel staggered at the pouring of Mr.Kapur, whose benevolence weds passion in such fierce ceremony that his employees, Yezad and Husain get absolved of all their sorrows in its pious fire? Why, else, should I feel frozen to witness the eternal nerve of meritoriousness that holds its own in Jal, despite three dominating decades of Coomy's heedlessness? Why, else, should I stand dwarfed by Nariman who bears the burning thorns on his soul, adamantly barricading their venomous pricks from seeping into his heart and its inhabitants? When the flute of life suddenly starts belting cantankerous sounds, it is easier to blame the flute maker; the chinks in our playing armour are conveniently swept beneath the carpet. That the sea of life will keep us afloat for a while and then swallow us without exception is a reality that eludes us when we are on shore. It is only the compassionate, who can not only empathize with the unruliness of the sea from afar but also send a boat of good words and deeds to ease the ride for those who are sea-bound next. A letter is like a perfume. You don’t apply a whole bottle. Just one dab will fill your senses. Words are the same – a few are sufficient. All days would remain the same if not for an act of kindness or a sliver of smile. Mistry knew it better than many of us. Hence, he did not leave a single chapter in this magnificent book where the beauty of innocence did not bathe us anew or the splendor of solidarity did not shake our shackles. His observations kissed the earthy tones of daily life and enlivened their cells to shine a little. He mixed the odours of past and present and softly pressed the nozzle to fill the future room with a foreign aroma that became our own on touching our skins. He maneuvered with utmost care, almost gracefully imitating Nariman’s movements, not ruffling our senses acutely but with a gentle thrust, like shaking a medicine bottle to get the mix right and placed a few shards of mirror on our palms: they did not cut, they did not intimidate, they simply showed our reflection. Amazing, how a photo shows you things that your eyes forgot to see.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Update: $2.99 kindle special today!!! It’s fabulous! I still haven’t read “A Fine Balance” yet - but own it. Everyone says that Books fantastic as well — Yet I find it hard to believe that the author could write another book any better than this one. Perhaps! 😊 A $2.99 special for this family epic novel is a fantastic price!!!! UPDATE....Nov. 17th ...Completed Book....Completed Review (STAGE 2) This is my first book by Robinton Mistry. ( a dangerous novel to begin at 1am). Thankfully, the prior fiv Update: $2.99 kindle special today!!! It’s fabulous! I still haven’t read “A Fine Balance” yet - but own it. Everyone says that Books fantastic as well — Yet I find it hard to believe that the author could write another book any better than this one. Perhaps! 😊 A $2.99 special for this family epic novel is a fantastic price!!!! UPDATE....Nov. 17th ...Completed Book....Completed Review (STAGE 2) This is my first book by Robinton Mistry. ( a dangerous novel to begin at 1am). Thankfully, the prior five hours sleep sustained me for another 5 hours. At which point, I had to drift off again for a little more morning sleep. Note: Today is Friday, Nov. 6th. (Hmmm, our daughter's 30th birthday)... "FAMILY MATTERS". .....( see, I couldn't resist 'not' thinking of 'family') I was inspired to read this from having read *Seemita's* review ***3*** times. Thank You, Seemita! Note: I bought a physical book ( like New), for a penny, plus shipping for a total of $4.00. Crazy- ridiculously - beautiful - this book is...( whom I'll share with, my aunt, and my neighbor Ardis). A few of my personal book lovers don't e-read, so it's important for me to give or share physical books. This book which traveled far to reach me -will land in the hands of others who will appreciate it. I'll be writing this review in stages...( I'm obviously not finished with the book yet)... STAGE 1: I've read 113 pages so far .... At this point it's Nariman Vakeel whom my heart breaks most. Having Parkinson's disease is no picnic, ... but then add the need for a hearing aid, bifocals, and dentures. He has osteoporosis, and a broken leg. Medications, (sleeping pills and anti-diarrhea, etc.), are needed (one must remember the schedule). Bathing, clean clothes, simple tasks become difficult. Depression can be......'depressing'. The challenge of living with dignity with a failing physical body...could seem hopeless. Enter the 'mind'.... What haunts Nariman, besides the fact that his independent life has been stripped away --is his memories for the woman he loved --forbidden to marry -- torments him again and again I'll Be Back .....5 stars so far....(if it goes down by the end of the book - I'll change the stars then) STAGE 2: Nariman is still the central character in my mind. ( 79 year old retired professor) ...'suffering'! The deeper I think about Nariman, the more it's clear he is suffering from all the most cherish things in life: love, health, happiness, and freedom. Two days ago I was speaking to my close friend (76 year old retired professor), whose mother celebrated her 100th birthday just a month ago. They had a 3 day - huge family celebration for her. She is in excellent health --and looks amazing! My 76 year old retired professor friend ( who passed on his thoughts to me about 'how to read the book "Ulysses", by James Joyce), is also in great health, happy, loved, and thriving in all areas of his life. Married 45 years..travels.. no depression..loves to dance ( has a dance studio in their home), ...and very the opposite from Nariman. So?? maybe there is hope? Yet..with the fragility that life is...we never know what's around the corner. Some days in our own outlook on life ... it can 'stink', with feelings like we're sloshing through the mud -- other days are smooth rolling and good enough -- and at rare times we feel exuberant. Yet, another big difference between my retired professor's friends life ( and most of our lives), than with Narimam, was 'freedom-of-choice'. By following the rules, beliefs, traditions, customs, of the Parsee ( Zoroastrian), religion - Nariman wasn't allowed to marry Lucy because she wasn't of the same faith. I looked up more information about Zoroastrianism...( an ancient religious fading faith). ...which was important in this novel, because we got to see the bigger picture of problems that occur- long lasting - people scared from not being allowed intermarriage. It's never just one person who suffers when 'rights' are taken away. A fricken train load of people also suffer. Nariman 's stepchildren carried resentment toward him. Coomy was bitter and domineering. Jal was more mild mannered and acquiescent. When they no longer wanted to take care of him - mostly tired of taking cared of his bodily functions.. after he broke his leg... They pass Nariman off to his biological daughter Roxana, her husband Yezad, and their two boys Jehanjir, and Murad. ( originally only for three weeks)....but with squabbling- fretting- arguing- ( feeling guilty), they begged not to take him back. Smashed together like sardines in a small apartment flat, Roxana was a saint in taking care of her father - but she and Yezad were starting to fight over finances. Roxana and Yezad are also fighting with Coomy and Jal. The young children were having struggles adjusting as well. Downstairs was Yezad's boss from The Bombay Sporting Goods Emporium, (Mr. Vikram Kapur), and a violinist from The Bombay Symphony, (Daisy). Daisy visited Nariman to play her violin to add comfort. Each character had different personal concerns and challenges. I found I really couldn't judge any of them harshly -- but there were times I wished a character made a different choice than they did. For example Yezad started gambling illegally because he was having a hard time making ends with the added financial stress ( medical costs, etc.), from having Nariman live with them). The setting in Bombay is integral to the book - the customs, languages, politics, religions, ( constant conflicts between Hindus and Muslims), and the overall spirit. Reading "Family Matters" was sometimes sad it hurt, other times, so dramatic--I I laughed silly: "What happened here?", asked Yezad. Fight? "Merman Irani explained that a scuffle had broken out with a customer. Saalo maaderchod came in like a king, sat down, and ordered tea with bun-muskaa, extra butter and all. With loud busy teeth, batchar-batcher, the bastard ate everything, happy as a goat in a garbage dump, and gurgled down his tea. When he got the bill he said, Sorry, no money. My waiter thought he was joking. But the bhonsrino kept refusing to pay." "That was when the waiter pushed him and the fight began. Eventually, three waiters held the man down while Merwan himself went through the man's pockets." "But I found nothing except a snot-filled hankerchief. Absolute karko, not one paisa. He said he had no money, but he was hungry--just imagine the maaderchod's courage." "At least he was honest, said Vilas." A masterpiece.... in the city of Bombay capturing the essence of India....*Timeless*-Terrific! This was written in 2002 - 13 years ago... ( feels like it was written today). I recently read a debut novel, "In Another Life", by Julie Christine Johnson,.....which I feel will prove to be 'Timeless'!! These at my favorite types of books.. books that are ageless. I highly recommend FAMILY MATTERS ....with its universal themes....love & family, illness, life transitions, sibling rivalry, religion, financial stress, poverty, politics, culture, betrayal, loss, death, friendships, strengths, failings, regret, secrets, and our ordinary lives which are extraordinary in themselves. This novel was like a friend! Thank you to Seemita ...( my friend and inspiration in reading this)!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Praj

    As Nariman counts his last breaths amid the serene violin rendition of Brahms Lullaby, played by Daisy, my mind races through a gloomy apartment where the stale odor of eau de cologne amalgamates in the air of misery thriving among the bustling of outside traffic and noisy vendors trying to earn their daily wage unaware of Nariman’s existence. The acridity of my parched throat makes me think about my death. Will I die as a happy soul or will death be a gift that I would crave in the course of vu As Nariman counts his last breaths amid the serene violin rendition of Brahms Lullaby, played by Daisy, my mind races through a gloomy apartment where the stale odor of eau de cologne amalgamates in the air of misery thriving among the bustling of outside traffic and noisy vendors trying to earn their daily wage unaware of Nariman’s existence. The acridity of my parched throat makes me think about my death. Will I die as a happy soul or will death be a gift that I would crave in the course of vulnerable seclusion? This is how Mistry’s words affect me, as I breathe and feel every emotion that flows through the ink. It is not because of my familiarity with the physical surroundings or the Parsi community, but the fact that Mistry writes a simple story of nameless ordinary faces with astonishing lives. Old age and Parkinson’s disease has not only bed-ridden Nariman but made him a burden on his financially challenged children. Coomy and Jal, his step-children, both heading their prime and plagued by their own ailments coax Nariman’s biological daughter Roxanna into providing healthcare to her ailing father. A middle-class housewife with two young kids and a budgeted monthly survival faces a monstrous task by burning the candle at both ends. The woes of middle-classes ripened by bigotry and communalism are highlighted with sheer accuracy throughout the manuscript. The preposterous stubbornness of arranged marriages, the segregation of religious identities, stigmatism of step-parental aspects and the eternal financial instabilities mesh into a burdensome desperation of graphic cunningness. In Asian cultures, looking after elderly parents is viewed not only dutiful but the most obedient thing to do. The concept of old-aged homes is highly condemned in the Indian society (also, many other Asian cultures). Old age can be cruel and if plagued by incurable diseases it becomes a metal cage. A man who once was free to walk in the by lanes of his vicinity and enjoy a wonderful German orchestra at the nearby concert hall; Nariman was reduced to a mere caged mortal who longed for freedom to breathe fresh air, feel the splatter of rainwater as he walked through the puddles and for once make his own choices without being reprimanded for his doings. I empathize more towards Nariman than any other character in the book. Nariman could never marry his true love Lucy, for she was a Catholic, he could not bring his step-daughter (Coomy) to accept him as her father and now he was the sole reason for the rifts between his children. I wonder if my grandparents could have had found happiness if they were not arranged to be married? What would the circumstances be if my father was not financially well enough to take care of my grandfather during his last days surviving cancer? Would we have been deprived of basic amenities like butter or hot water and frantically hoped to find additional money in the budgeted envelopes of monthly payments? In a society where corruption is spelled in gold letters, and a man’s potency is derived from his monetary success, money matters; come what may. Each sketched characters defines the ebb and flow of life and its greatness that we as children dream to achieve. Right from Nariman to Roxanna and even Yehzad (Roxanna’s husband) who once nurtured the dream of Canadian immigration, somehow end up in a vortex of familial or financial obligations of a capricious life. Mistry does not adhere either to pompous melancholic facades or epical anecdotes. He throws out the phrase of ordinary people with ordinary lives. For if, lives were ordinary, nostalgia would not be such a pain in the arse and worries would not construct topsy-turvy pathways.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    "Curious, he thought, how, if you knew a person long enough, he could elicit every kind of emotion from you, every possible reaction, envy, admiration, pity, irritation, fury, fondness, jealousy, love, disgust. But in the end all human beings became candidates for compassion, all of us, without exception...and if we could recognize this from the beginning, what a saving in pain and grief and misery..." This thought from Yezad (ch 17) sums up his moment of insight in this teeming story of generati "Curious, he thought, how, if you knew a person long enough, he could elicit every kind of emotion from you, every possible reaction, envy, admiration, pity, irritation, fury, fondness, jealousy, love, disgust. But in the end all human beings became candidates for compassion, all of us, without exception...and if we could recognize this from the beginning, what a saving in pain and grief and misery..." This thought from Yezad (ch 17) sums up his moment of insight in this teeming story of generational family "matters", complicated by inter-religious bickering, unfaithfulness of various kinds, jealousies, rivalries and surrounded by the massively overwhelming city of Bombay, being reborn (but not really changed) as Mumbai. Mistry is a master of the detail. In this city of millions, he finds the details to make a short walk memorable, the different sects and types to populate the streets, all for background to the main story of the Vakeels and Contractors and Chenoys. There are moments of beautiful emotion balanced against extreme thoughtlessness bordering on hate, described so well I felt I could see the faces, hear the words. There is so much here; it is Dickensian in scope and has many of the same concerns: poverty, illness, inequality of opportunity, politics and government all as malevolent influences on daily life. But this is modern day not 19th century. This is a family struggling to be a modern family in the late 20th century but cursed by family hatreds and misunderstandings. Such is life anywhere and everywhere perhaps. Highly recommended 4^

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Well, I read this the whole way through and Steve Urkel didn't appear once, folks. This confirms my suspicion that Rohinton Mistry is one of the finest writers of our time. While I still preferred A Fine Balance of the two stories I've read by him (it was grander in scale), the more intimate Family Matters is still 100 percent 5-star fare with rich, evocative, Dickensian characters, set against the sprawling, corrupt, bustling backdrop of Bombay-soon-to-be-Mumbai, India. When the 79-year-old patri Well, I read this the whole way through and Steve Urkel didn't appear once, folks. This confirms my suspicion that Rohinton Mistry is one of the finest writers of our time. While I still preferred A Fine Balance of the two stories I've read by him (it was grander in scale), the more intimate Family Matters is still 100 percent 5-star fare with rich, evocative, Dickensian characters, set against the sprawling, corrupt, bustling backdrop of Bombay-soon-to-be-Mumbai, India. When the 79-year-old patriarch of a Parsi family Nariman--recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease--breaks his ankle and becomes bedridden, his stepson Jal and stepdaughter Coomy become overwhelmed caring for him, and enlist the help of their half-sister, Roxana. (And by "enlist," I mean show up unannounced at her two-room cramped flat--which she shares with her husband Yezad and two small children, Jehangir and Murad--and unceremoniously dump Nariman off.) Despite the close quarters, Roxana does her best to make this new living situation work, mostly because of her absolute, unconditional love for her father, and the strong bond the family shares. Jehangir and Murad see the new living arrangement as a huge adventure, fighting over whose turn it is to sleep on the balcony (there is no room in the flat), and airplane-feeding their cherished grandfather his meals. All bonds are tested, however; the book examines what happens when the family--repeatedly--is taken to its limit. The point of view is third-person omniscient, with special care given to Jehangir, who is the youngest and most impressionable when Nariman moves in. (It's only fitting that he delivers the Epilogue in the first person.) Corruption, jealousy, regret, and resentment all take turns rearing their heads; I found myself wondering again and again if the story would have a happy ending. I don't think it's a spoiler to say the author delivers both happy and sad, as he is adept at delivering throughout. Like with A Fine Balance, I was in complete awe at how deftly Mistry wrote realistic yet poetic dialogue, and weaved the struggles and problems of India at large into a single cast of memorable, yet "ordinary" characters. Mistry demonstrates better than any writer that every individual has an amazing story to tell. Magnificent.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    What, I didn't review Family Matters? Okay, here is the review : Rohinton Mistry - three novels, three five star ratings Wow

  7. 4 out of 5

    Trudie

    I have been mulling over my review for this book all day. I ended up really unsure of my feelings about it. I suppose up until the events of the last third I was happy to give this one a ringing endorsement. The titular family matters under discussion are principally the care of the elderly Nariman, afflicted with Parkinsons and a broken ankle he is unceremoniously deposited with his daughters family, the care of whom places enormous strain on an already stretched family budget. This premise all I have been mulling over my review for this book all day. I ended up really unsure of my feelings about it. I suppose up until the events of the last third I was happy to give this one a ringing endorsement. The titular family matters under discussion are principally the care of the elderly Nariman, afflicted with Parkinsons and a broken ankle he is unceremoniously deposited with his daughters family, the care of whom places enormous strain on an already stretched family budget. This premise allows Mistry to explore many social problems in the Bombay of this novel - poverty, care of the elderly, religious intolerance, corruption, gambling, the caste system. I immediately enjoyed the slight culture shock of being plunged into this Parsi Zoroastrian family and its bitter-sweet domestic dramas. It is written both tenderly and also unflinchingly - we are not spared any of the indignities of old age that Nariman must face. There are several uncomfortable scenes involving bedpans and general bodily function that are going to be hard to forget. However, at its best this book conjures up a Bombay full of contradictions and interesting characters. I admired how Mistry made me feel like you could come to love this city and despise it at the same time. There are fantastic characters in this book, often the minor ones were the most memorable - the scribe who reads and writes letters for illiterate workers, the enthusiastic handyman who vastly overestimates his abilities. In the end I was let down a little by the last quarter of this book. Two events occurred that more or less knocked me out of my reading orbit and I feel like the author took a slightly different direction at this point than I had wanted to go. Its not that I expected a particularly happy conclusion but the almost comedic beginning didn't match the rather gloomy religiosity of the ending. Family Matters is a beautifully written account of both life in Bombay and the Parsi Zorastican culture as well as the universal experience of aging and for that I recommend it. Certainly, I will be revisiting Rohinton Mistry in the future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bharath

    This is my second straight read of Rohinton Mistry after “Such a long journey”. The strength of his books is very clearly in the colourful build-up of the characters. They are so real that you start reading along, thinking how easily you could be in this situation yourself. The story of Yezad, his wife Roxanna, their children, dependent father in law Nariman Vakeel, Nariman's step children Coomie and Jal. The book toggles between Nariman's life - the joys and pains, as also his having to marry so This is my second straight read of Rohinton Mistry after “Such a long journey”. The strength of his books is very clearly in the colourful build-up of the characters. They are so real that you start reading along, thinking how easily you could be in this situation yourself. The story of Yezad, his wife Roxanna, their children, dependent father in law Nariman Vakeel, Nariman's step children Coomie and Jal. The book toggles between Nariman's life - the joys and pains, as also his having to marry someone other than the love of his life. There is a very tragic incident involving both his wife and love which is revealed much later in the book. At the present time, Nariman breaks his leg and ends up being bed ridden for a period. His step children Coomie and Jal struggle to take care of him, and he moves temporarily to his daughter Roxanna and family’s place. As part of a lower middle class family, Yezad and Roxanna struggle to make ends meet, and with this the care required for Nariman falls on them.There are very touching incidents revealing what a very hard situation can do to good people. While Yezad toys with ways to somehow make some more money, the children feel obligated to chip in as well. As in “Such a long journey”, there are random musings by the characters in the story about Mumbai, its problems, the politics and everything else. After periods of struggle, the characters settle to a kind of troubled peace where though financial worries subside to some extent, real peace of mind is still elusive. Do not expect grand plots or twists. Instead though you will find real people and live their joy and sorrow, as you read. And for that - the book is certainly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This novel was another of my bibliotherapy prescriptions, specifically intended as a cure for worry about ageing parents. Retired professor Nariman Vakeel, 79, has Parkinson’s disease and within the first few chapters has also fallen and broken his ankle. His grown stepchildren, Coomy and Jal, who are reluctant to care for him anyway, decide they can’t cope with the daily reality of bedpans, sponge baths and spoon feeding and conspire to make it look like it’s impossible to keep Pappa in their l This novel was another of my bibliotherapy prescriptions, specifically intended as a cure for worry about ageing parents. Retired professor Nariman Vakeel, 79, has Parkinson’s disease and within the first few chapters has also fallen and broken his ankle. His grown stepchildren, Coomy and Jal, who are reluctant to care for him anyway, decide they can’t cope with the daily reality of bedpans, sponge baths and spoon feeding and conspire to make it look like it’s impossible to keep Pappa in their large apartment at Chateau Felicity. He’ll simply have to go recuperate at Pleasant Villa in the care of his daughter Roxana and her husband and sons, even though their two-bedroom apartment is barely large enough for the family of four. You have to wince at the irony of the names for these two Bombay housing blocks, and at the bitter contrast between selfishness and duty. The spoiled stepchildren have plenty of money to hire a nurse, but shunt Pappa off to their poor relations instead, forcing Roxana’s husband Yezad and younger son Jehangir to resort to dodgy ways of making money quickly. Perhaps inevitably, Nariman starts to fade into the background. An increasingly speechless invalid, he only comes alive through his past: italicized sections, presented as his night-time ravings, tell of his love for Lucy, whom his parents refused to let him marry, and the untimely end of his arranged marriage. Mistry drifts between the third-person perspectives of most of the main characters, especially Yezad and Jehangir. My reading progress slowed and nearly stalled two-thirds through when the plot focuses on Yezad’s work at the Bombay Sporting Goods Emporium and his attempts to earn a promotion. I also wish more had been made of his attempt to emigrate to Canada. Overall, though, I enjoyed the time spent in a vibrantly realized Indian city and appreciated the chance to learn about a lesser-known community: Nariman and his whole family are Parsis or Zoroastrians, a tight-knit community with its own rituals and concerns about ethnic purity. There’s also a faint echo here of King Lear, with one faithful daughter set against two wicked children. (Nariman recognizes the parallel, shaking his head that, having taught Lear so many times, he didn’t learn its lessons.) Luckily Mistry doesn’t follow the tragedy through to its full extent; one particularly odious character gets a proper comeuppance, and the innocent one who suffers is a minor player. As to ageing parents, this is a pretty relentlessly bleak picture, but there are some sparks of light: joy in life’s little celebrations, and unexpected kindnesses, like neighbor Daisy being willing to come play her violin any time Nariman is distressed. Mistry’s epic has plenty of tender moments that bring it down to an intimate scale. I’ll be keen to read his other novels. Favorite lines: “The joy and laughter and youth they [his grandsons] brought was an antidote to the sombreness enveloping his flat, the hours when he felt the very walls and ceilings were encrusted with the distress of unhappy decades.” “The balcony door framed the scene: nine-year-old happily feeding seventy-nine.” Nariman: “There’s only one way to defeat the sorrow and sadness of life – with laughter and rejoicing. Bring out the good dishes, put on your good clothes, no sense hoarding them.” Roxana: “No time like the present. It’s a chance to practise kindness every day, like Daisy practises her violin. If they learn kindness, happiness will follow.” Plus fun mentions of other Indian novels, including one of his own: “Modern ideas have filled Nari’s head. He never learned to preserve that fine balance between tradition and modern-ness.” “Yezad felt that Punjabi migrants of a certain age were like Indian authors writing about that period, whether in realist novels of corpse-filled trains or in the magic-realist midnight muddles”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I usually feel a little bit of glow after finishing any book. I have the bad habit of calling every book I just finished "my favorite" -- until I finish the next one. But in this case, I really must stress that Family Matters is one of the best books I have ever read. I never re-read books, but this is one of those rare gems that even I want to return to. If you took all of Shakespeare's tragedies, condensed them into a story about one family, and set it in Bombay in the 1990s, this book would b I usually feel a little bit of glow after finishing any book. I have the bad habit of calling every book I just finished "my favorite" -- until I finish the next one. But in this case, I really must stress that Family Matters is one of the best books I have ever read. I never re-read books, but this is one of those rare gems that even I want to return to. If you took all of Shakespeare's tragedies, condensed them into a story about one family, and set it in Bombay in the 1990s, this book would be the result. Family Matters goes above and beyond the mundane and the domestic (even though most of the action takes place in a one-bedroom apartment) and tells the story of human beings and their relationships to one another: both the sublime and the foolish, the selfish and the divine. In this book Mistry makes several obscure references to India, Indian politics, and Zoroastrianism, and several pieces of dialog are in various languages other than English, but despite these barriers for a Western reader, I would whole-heartedly recommend this novel to anyone I know, especially to anyone who likes Shakespeare or otherwise enjoys stories that tackle all the really hard questions. There are several funny and witty moments throughout the book, but overall the tone is one of heart-crushing poignancy. Sometimes it was literally painful to read this book because so many scenes and remarks and characters were so powerful and moving -- in short, this is not a book to be picked up and put down lightly. You will get involved in it as though every joy and tragedy were happening within your own family.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    I read this as part of the Mookse and Gripes reading of the 2002 Man Booker Prize shortlist. I am not sure I would have picked it up apart from that incentive. To be honest, after about 100 pages, I was thinking of putting it back down again. It is, deliberately I believe, farcical as it relates the story of members a family battling against one another. The book description here on Goodreads provides all the plot background that is necessary, so there is no need for me to write anything about t I read this as part of the Mookse and Gripes reading of the 2002 Man Booker Prize shortlist. I am not sure I would have picked it up apart from that incentive. To be honest, after about 100 pages, I was thinking of putting it back down again. It is, deliberately I believe, farcical as it relates the story of members a family battling against one another. The book description here on Goodreads provides all the plot background that is necessary, so there is no need for me to write anything about that. As we are introduced to the family, we see them plotting and scheming, especially Coomy, Nariman’s step-daughter who wants a break from looking after her step-father in his dotage. When Nariman’s circumstances mean he moves to stay with his biological daughter and her family, the focus of the story moves with him and we see Yezad, the husband, now scheming to attempt to make ends meet with an additional member of the household (an expensive one, at that, with his medical requirements). There’s an obvious play on words at work in the title where “Family Matters” can mean both "Family Topics" and "Family Is Important". The family topics drive the plot and the importance of family provides one of the main underlying themes. It is clear that all the family members in the main group of the story follow dreams of a better life. They bemoan the state of their city and their country (there are repeated references to Shiv Sena, a far-right political party that it seems many citizens live in fear of), with Yezad in particular having previously taken steps to attempt to leave India and head for Canada. And one of his sons, Jehangir, sees an idealised world described in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books and contemplates the meaning of Father Christmas saying In a way, thought Jehangir, the Santa Claus story was like the Famous Five Books. You knew none of it was real, but it let you imagine there was a better world somewhere. Reading the book was a very up and down experience for me. As I say, I nearly put it down after 100 pages (it is far easier to put down a library book than it is one that you have paid good money for!), but then things picked up and the middle (and largest) section of the book was an interesting and absorbing story. But then the story veered off into a strongly religious commentary at the end which didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the book. To me, it felt like Mistry wanted to include some thoughts on this and almost tacked them on to the end of the book. In the end, I’m glad I kept going and didn’t stop after 100 pages, but I do rather wish the final 100 pages had been a bit different. The middle 300 pages were very enjoyable!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    This book did for me what Suketu Mehta's "Bombay. Maximum City" couldn't - I could see, smell and feel the mega-city throughout the pages of this both realistic and nostalgic novel. I suppose that also my unability to throrouhghly enjoy non-fiction plays a role in this, I just need characters and plot to stay interested through a thick volume and Mistry provides both in a masterly way. Bombay and his protagonist's love and hate for the rotting and still lovely and lively place is one of the topi This book did for me what Suketu Mehta's "Bombay. Maximum City" couldn't - I could see, smell and feel the mega-city throughout the pages of this both realistic and nostalgic novel. I suppose that also my unability to throrouhghly enjoy non-fiction plays a role in this, I just need characters and plot to stay interested through a thick volume and Mistry provides both in a masterly way. Bombay and his protagonist's love and hate for the rotting and still lovely and lively place is one of the topics he adresses in "Family Matters" and maybe I should be thankful to Mehta that he helped me understand some of the political and social allusions which Mistry presents without explaining them for unenlightened readers - not a minus in my opinion as there's plenty of information somewhere else on the Shiv Sena party, on Zoroastrianism and housing situation in Bombay/Mumbai (hard to decide which name to use as through this book I've learned that even for the inhabitants it's a question of faith to opt for one or the other). I like learning stuff in books and this one made me look up many things about the Parsi community and other topics I didn't know much about, but Familiy Matters can definitely be also read just as a great story without getting further involved in Indian history or politics. As important as the city and inertwined with its destiny is the family whose matters have baptized the book. And the people portrayed by Mistry are wonderfully recognizable for everyone throughout the world: they're real, poignantly described, believable. I loved them, abhorred them, cared for them and wanted to yell at them sometimes, and I'll remember their fate and their evolution for a long time. And evolution is another big topic: Aging or the becoming of age, the growing up of children and the slow decay of the old - time and it's consuming nature make the reader sad and appreciative of the moment. Also the repetition of everything throughout history is tackled in a smooth way which doesn't seem forced: When in the epilogue the history of the grandfather and his tragic love seems to foreshadow the destiny of his grandson, the circle closes in an elegant way. Shakespeare is quoted several times and the novel definitely has a Shakespearean character - definitely recommended.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    The one thing that is common to all cultures is the difficulties in taking care of our aged parents or other family members. So from the beginning this story really hit home, basically had something similar to this happen in my husband's family, although I felt this was a bit exaggerated. The characters were all well drawn, even the characters on the sidelines were interesting and the two young boys won my heart. It definitely showed the effects and strain on everyone in the family and even when The one thing that is common to all cultures is the difficulties in taking care of our aged parents or other family members. So from the beginning this story really hit home, basically had something similar to this happen in my husband's family, although I felt this was a bit exaggerated. The characters were all well drawn, even the characters on the sidelines were interesting and the two young boys won my heart. It definitely showed the effects and strain on everyone in the family and even when things are somewhat resolved these effects still linger. The amazing thing about this novel is that there is still humor and plenty of love, touching moments and though the novel ended in a way I wish it hadn't, the ending was real not sugar coated for a happy ending. Will definitely read more by this author.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    ETA: The only reason I originally gave this three rather than two stars was that: 1. it accurately describes the deplorable way we today deal with old age and sickness in MANY countries of the world, and 2. not all blame was heaped on the government. People are who they are and unfortunately we often fail in coping with sick and/or elderly in our own family. The book was realistic. In its realism I found it terribly depressing. ******************************* All I can say is that this book made me ETA: The only reason I originally gave this three rather than two stars was that: 1. it accurately describes the deplorable way we today deal with old age and sickness in MANY countries of the world, and 2. not all blame was heaped on the government. People are who they are and unfortunately we often fail in coping with sick and/or elderly in our own family. The book was realistic. In its realism I found it terribly depressing. ******************************* All I can say is that this book made me miserable. I cannot deal with stories about dysfunctional families. I get frustrated and unhappy. When you read stories about how people have a hard time because they get caught in a war or a storm or genocide, you watch them fight to survive and you feel a bit of hope for mankind. These characters are strong and have fought for survival and at least some have succeeded. When you watch how normal people are mean to each other you only get filled with despair. I don’t know what to do with my unhappiness when I read such books, books like this one by Robinton Mistry. The events described were very realistic, it is not that I am criticizing. I am in fact not criticizing the book in any way. It is about the importance of family. I mean look at that title! You learn about life in Bombay in the 90s. Corruption – there it is in one word. Life is a struggle for so many. Poor health care and no social network for the aged. This book is about not only the importance of family, but also about aging and how the young and old have so much to teach each other, but the message is clear that we rarely have the energy to stop and learn from each other. We are too busy just getting through life day by day. Did I learn anything? Well maybe a bit about Parsi traditions and culture. This book makes me thankful for living in countries that provide good health care and a relatively good social standard for ALL. Martin Jarvis’ narration of the audiobook was excellent. Really excellent. Each character had their own intonation and you knew who was speaking just by the tone.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ben Babcock

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Reading Family Matters after reading A Fine Balance is a little anticlimactic. A Fine Balance comes very close to my idea of a perfect novel, so I doubted that Rohinton Mistry would be able to deliver something of similar calibre a second time. There is just something about A Fine Balance that smashes that wall between reader and text, breaking down the barrier until the fiction becomes as close to truth as fiction can. It is a visceral, highly emotional experience—and it is utterly singular and Reading Family Matters after reading A Fine Balance is a little anticlimactic. A Fine Balance comes very close to my idea of a perfect novel, so I doubted that Rohinton Mistry would be able to deliver something of similar calibre a second time. There is just something about A Fine Balance that smashes that wall between reader and text, breaking down the barrier until the fiction becomes as close to truth as fiction can. It is a visceral, highly emotional experience—and it is utterly singular and impossible to replicate. While I might give another Mistry book five stars, he has set the standard high. Family Matters is an excellent book, but it doesn’t quite pack the same punch. Like A Fine Balance, this novel is set in Mumbai (then Bombay, and the nationalistic name change is an important plot point). Whereas the former is set during The Emergency, this novel is more contemporary, set sometime in the 1990s (I believe; I didn’t catch an exact date). The right-wing and volatile Shiv Sena party is in power throughout the region, whipping up a nationalistic fervour at the expense of tolerance for India’s diverse religions and cultures. In the midst of these times of change, we follow an extended family: Nariman, who slowly succumbing to Parkinson’s; his two step-children, Jal and Coomy; his daughter, Roxana; and Roxana’s husband, Yezad, and their two children, Jehangir, and Murad. When Nariman falls and breaks his leg while walking, he faces four weeks of immobility and bed rest. Though he has always lived with Jal and Coomy since his wife died, Coomy finds herself unwilling to shoulder this burden, so she literally shows up at Roxana and Yezad’s doorstep with Nariman and without warning. Talk about pushy! At its best, Family Matters is the intricate interplay of three generations. Nariman continually recalls intense memories of a doomed love affair with a non-Parsi girl, and how she continued to dog him even after his ill-fated arranged marriage to Jal and Coomy’s mother. He is a victim of the conservative bigotry of his parents and their friends, but he is not a shining husband to his new bride. Nariman carries around a lot of guilt, and it is interesting to see the contrast between the young man and the ailing one in the present day. Jal, Coomy, Roxana, and Yezad all belong to the latest batch of “adults”, though with Jal and Coomy that is a term only loosely applied. After Coomy unilaterally decides to transfer Nariman’s care to Roxana and Yezad, we see the impact of caring for an older relative on the lifestyle and budget of a middle-class Indian family. Money becomes a real issue, and at times Yezad is sorely tempted to abandon the “Parsi honesty” that has made him beloved to his boss at Bombay Sporting Goods. Their son, Jehangir, does more than contemplate. Always honest before, Jehangir overhears how his parents are tight for money and wonders how he can help. He crosses the line and accepts a 20-rupee bribe in his official capacity as Homework Monitor. It’s one of those pivotal points in the novel: as he is about to accept the bribe, I wanted to do something and make him stop, even though I knew he was going to do it. A lot of the novel is like that: moments where suddenly the narrative tilts and becomes very predictable, but in a car-crash-like manner. We don’t learn all that much about Murad, Jehangir’s older brother. He is sort of the silent sibling, speaking up only when there needs to be a counterpoint to Jehangir’s insistent voice. I wish we had learned more about him and about what he was going through at that age, especially since he becomes a more important character in the novel’s quixotic epilogue. The epilogue is definitely the part of Family Matters that gives me, as a reader, the most difficulty processing. Part of me wonders why it’s there. It skips forward five years, after a semi-satisfactory resolution that doesn’t leave me quite as despairing as A Fine Balance—and Mistry wrecks everything! Yezad has embraced his newfound faith in Zoroastrianism in an extreme way, butting heads with both his wife and the rebellious teenaged Murad. If I had to guess, I’d say that Mistry includes this epilogue as a reminder that happy endings don’t stay that way: no situation remains stable forever, and what might appear a happy ending could very well lead to further trouble down the road. I kind of feel like I am rambling on and stirring up name soup without actually saying much. I am having difficulty reviewing this novel because the whole thing works so well together, but when I try to pick out one of the parts, the entire structure collapses on me. I can’t talk just about the way Yezad interacts with the political pressures on his boss or just about Jal and Coomy’s abominable behaviour regarding Nariman’s care. The book is aptly titled, because all of these events together create a story that is worth reading. The significance of Family Matters comes not from what Mistry has to say on any one topic, but the way each of those topics affects the members of this family. Not everyone will invest in the characters in such a way that the experience becomes meaningful. I did, although I didn’t enjoy the portrayals of these people as much as I did the characters of A Fine Balance. Both novels, however, are incredibly intimate experiences. Moreover, I love the opportunity they give me to open my eyes and see a country and cultures that truly differ from my own views in so many different ways. (Yes, this is Mistry’s interpretation of India, and I am aware that doesn’t come without its own baggage. One advantage to reading A Fine Balance before Family Matters is that I recognized all the subtle digs he includes aimed at various critics of the former novel.) I don’t just read fiction about India for the novelty value: I do it because I could read hundreds of novels set in the Western world, and they would improve my vocabulary and my literary aptitude, but they would only reinforce my biases and beliefs. There is so much more out there—and at the same time, even families on the other side of the world struggle with issues I can recognize: the ailing elder and his lost love; deceit and desperation; trepidation over the changing times. Family Matters is strange and foreign but also comforting and familiar, and so while it is not quite sublime, it is definitely successful.

  16. 4 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    I liked this book after awhile, but initially, one of the characters, Coomy, irritated me so much I almost quit. Although the story is about a Mumbai family of Parsi's, and there are many Indian cultural-specific foods, religious customs and words mentioned, I felt this is a universal story about all affectionate, middle-class families. But on the other hand, the universality reminded me of the claustrophobic and eternal familial struggles of all human family life, which affect most families thr I liked this book after awhile, but initially, one of the characters, Coomy, irritated me so much I almost quit. Although the story is about a Mumbai family of Parsi's, and there are many Indian cultural-specific foods, religious customs and words mentioned, I felt this is a universal story about all affectionate, middle-class families. But on the other hand, the universality reminded me of the claustrophobic and eternal familial struggles of all human family life, which affect most families throughout time, and I not only am glad I currently live in a two-person household, but I found myself longing a bit for the hermit life. While culture and the crowded environment, and particularly religion, for this family, appeared to crush the sparkle out of them, it was the moderate kindness of certain family members at certain times that preserved what warmth and affection they possessed, even amplified their love for each other enough to survive as a family. They all seemed to feel family was important, even though each generation eventually succumbs to the constant downpour of the stresses of survival. Each individual in the story faces a personal trial which tests them in their personal beliefs about their world and about who they think they are, and most of them fail this test. Interestingly, of those who fail, some pick themselves up, admit their mistakes, and move on with more depth and wisdom. Others who feel they failed themselves begin to live lives of cringing fear, miserly grasping, and shrunken angry personalities. These are the individuals who bring cruelty and harshness into their family life, in this case, using religion to stifle and smother the natural bouyancy of everyone else. It is clearly fear and angst behind their controlling rigidity, but another generation is coming up, in turn struggling to define who they are and untested, willing to fight against parental and cultural boundaries. I think the novel is very realistic, and it speaks to those of us that have become aware cultural and religious assumptions can be a straightjacket as well as a support, and sometimes the tests we each face alone that show us to ourselves mean stepping outside what we believed. In standing alone in that new reality, some of us accept the losses of our grandiosity and beliefs, while others curl up into a ball and hide, chaining themselves hard to the first thing which feels safe, no matter how illusionary. (view spoiler)[For Coomy it was toys. For Yezad, it's religion. It's not accidental that both characters place their lucky talismans (toys, religious texts) into the same piece of furniture, decree that their artifacts are sacred space, and create a shrine, more mental than physical, which parches everything of joy. Nariman, and later Roxana and Jehanger, clearly had their moment of testing and became stronger people with increased self-confidence and more insight into their families. However, rebellion was not part of their natures, as it clearly is for Murad, and it would have been interesting to see what happens to him. I recklessly put forward the prediction he is the one to go to Canada. (hide spoiler)] . Mistry starts and ends the book with the aging of Nariman, a fascinating and bittersweet look at what the end of a long life is like, when the body is quitting. Most of the family members reveal the best and worst of who they are through how they react to this intelligent, but physically failing, head of the family. He has Parkinson's and osteoporosis, and after breaking his leg becomes bedridden. Nariman's and 9-year-old Jehanger's relationship is the most heartwarming one in the book, as grandfather and grandson share each other joys and pains with a purity closest to what we all strive for in a relationship. Watching them through Roxana's eyes (who is Jehanger's mother and Nariman's daughter), made me think this is why people continue to create families in spite of the shoving and shaping families do to our destinies.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Srimal Ashish

    Yet another masterpiece from Mr. Mistry. Few months back i picked his "A Fine Balance" from the shelf and was mesmerized the way he expresses the events and emotions. The best thing about Rohinton Mistry is he has got the beauty of capturing the little unnoticed experiences of a common mans life. The resemblance he creates is nostalgic. Talking about the book, the literary fiction is set during the time of Babri Masjid fall and rise of Shiv Sena. The politically fouled air and terror among the p Yet another masterpiece from Mr. Mistry. Few months back i picked his "A Fine Balance" from the shelf and was mesmerized the way he expresses the events and emotions. The best thing about Rohinton Mistry is he has got the beauty of capturing the little unnoticed experiences of a common mans life. The resemblance he creates is nostalgic. Talking about the book, the literary fiction is set during the time of Babri Masjid fall and rise of Shiv Sena. The politically fouled air and terror among the people affecting the life of Yezad and Mr. Kapur family changes the course of plot. The book also portrays the animosity one develops against their own family members as the clock ticks. The tension where the curtains of bias-ness closes the eyes, unable to see the difference of right or wrong. Its not a fast read book i should say. It has to be felt, emotionally, and understand that "family does matters". "When we grow up, we think we know everything. We assume old people are not right in their heads. Too much pride we acquire with our years. And then it brings us down"

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vikas

    I had read this book a long time ago but still remember it as it dealt with a slightly different aspect. This is the story of a Parsi family living in Mumbai as they progress through life. It was like reading through the diary of the family members as it slowly moves towards the end. May be I would read it again sometimes to see what has changed with me being 35 now and also my own growth as a reader as well. Well this was good enough that I remember the book still. Well Keep on Reading folks.

  19. 4 out of 5

    David Cerruti

    There is more to the title than first meets the eye. Is it family MATTERS? Or is it FAMILY matters? The meaning of “matters” evolves as the story progresses. Mistry discusses this, and much more, in a 51 minute interview for WAMU, on Sept. 30, 2002. http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/200... That interview was part of the book tour that, unfortunately, occurred too soon after 9-11. According to a November 3, 2002 BBC report: “Canadian author, Rohinton Mistry, has cancelled the second half of his US There is more to the title than first meets the eye. Is it family MATTERS? Or is it FAMILY matters? The meaning of “matters” evolves as the story progresses. Mistry discusses this, and much more, in a 51 minute interview for WAMU, on Sept. 30, 2002. http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/200... That interview was part of the book tour that, unfortunately, occurred too soon after 9-11. According to a November 3, 2002 BBC report: “Canadian author, Rohinton Mistry, has cancelled the second half of his US book tour because of racial profiling at US airports. … As a person of colour he was stopped repeatedly and rudely at each airport along the way - to the point where the humiliation of both he and his wife has become unbearable," a memo from the writer's US publisher Aflred A Knopf said.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainm... Enough about the title, how was the book? I loved it. The characters, dialog, and plot structure are worthy of Tennessee Williams. I totally forget some books as soon as they are finished. I’ll remember Family Matters for a long time. Parts of this book were experienced while traveling through Rajasthan, India.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    beautiful, beautiful and again - beautiful. what an amazing book !! 'a fine balance' by the same author is also on my top list, and i'm so glad this one made it there as well. i simply don't have enough words to explain this book ... just read it ... now ... :)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eric Wright

    Mistry transports us into the life of a struggling Parsi couple in Mumbai/Bombay. It is full of pathos and realism. His language graphically conjures up the characters, a tiny apartment, the marital tensions, the feelings of two young boys, the stresses of trying to cope with too little money and a naive employer, and particularly the deterioration in the health of the grandfather. Nariman Vakeel is a 79 year old widower forces by circumstances and parents to reject his true love and marry withi Mistry transports us into the life of a struggling Parsi couple in Mumbai/Bombay. It is full of pathos and realism. His language graphically conjures up the characters, a tiny apartment, the marital tensions, the feelings of two young boys, the stresses of trying to cope with too little money and a naive employer, and particularly the deterioration in the health of the grandfather. Nariman Vakeel is a 79 year old widower forces by circumstances and parents to reject his true love and marry within the Parsi community. The story portrays his sad memories and the difficulties of living in a deteriorating apartment with his two now middle-aged stepchildren; one bitter and vindictive, the other pliable and mild-mannered. When a fall breaks his ankle, his bitter and domineering stepdaughter, Coomy, plots to transfer Nariman to the care of Roxana, his sweet-tempered daughter in their postage-stamp apartment. His arrival and deterioration threaten to destroy the harmony between Roxanna and her husband Yezad. In this setting the empathy of their youngest son, Jehangir, rises to the surface. Mistry succeeds in creating a microcosm of Mumbai, old Bombay. The streets. The various characters in the apartment where the principal characters live. The school life of the two young boys. The strictures of the Parsi/Zoroastrian community and their worship. The miserable result of becoming ultra-relgious. The suffering of a bed-ridden senior taken care of by his family, a family that cannot afford help. The uncertainty of life. Love lost and gained. The naivete of the more wealthy middle class in their treatment of their servants and employees. The book could be sub-titled: Life on the Edge in Bombay.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sonia Gomes

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is an exquisite book. Rohinton Mistry spins a tale of a Zoroastrian family, a story which can be the story of any family anywhere. Nariman Vakeel has a fall, Jal and Coomy his step children, send their father to their half sister Roxanne. Poor Roxanne has a small apartment, has a husband and two children. It is not that Jal and Coomy dislike Roxanne, oh no they do love their sister Roxanne a great deal. Jal and Coomy are just so unhappy, their lives follow a pattern and they hardly have an This is an exquisite book. Rohinton Mistry spins a tale of a Zoroastrian family, a story which can be the story of any family anywhere. Nariman Vakeel has a fall, Jal and Coomy his step children, send their father to their half sister Roxanne. Poor Roxanne has a small apartment, has a husband and two children. It is not that Jal and Coomy dislike Roxanne, oh no they do love their sister Roxanne a great deal. Jal and Coomy are just so unhappy, their lives follow a pattern and they hardly have anything to look forward to, they also believe that Roxanne is luckier than they are, she has after all a husband and kids. So in a fit of meanness they send their step father to Roxanne. Once Nariman Vakeel is at Roxanne's they plot and plan to keep him there for as long as they can, so they undertake extensive renovation of their house. The never ending renovation will keep their step father away for as long as it takes. But as we all know the best laid plans... Then there is a tragedy, a beam swings, catches Coomy on the head and she dies. A simple single act changes everything. You would think that when Roxanne and her family come to live in the palatial mansion that it would be better times for the family, but everything changes, especially for Roxanne’s husband Yezda who from a simple fun loving man changes radically to a conservative Zoroastrian. Just goes to show how people can turn greedy, mean spirited and careless. Which brings us to the one act which put the entire chain of events in motion. Would things have been different if Nariman had not gone to live with Roxanne? Of course they would have.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    Rating: 4.5/5 This book is not surprisingly about a family. More specifically, it follows three generations of a Parsi family living in modern Mumbai (formerly Bombay). As the grandfather of the family, Nariman is likely the best candidate to be declared the main character of this novel, but it is truly and ensemble cast, with Nariman's step children Jal and Coomy, his daugther and son-in-law Roxanna and Yezda and his grandchildren Janghela and Murad all playing important roles. This is an exquisi Rating: 4.5/5 This book is not surprisingly about a family. More specifically, it follows three generations of a Parsi family living in modern Mumbai (formerly Bombay). As the grandfather of the family, Nariman is likely the best candidate to be declared the main character of this novel, but it is truly and ensemble cast, with Nariman's step children Jal and Coomy, his daugther and son-in-law Roxanna and Yezda and his grandchildren Janghela and Murad all playing important roles. This is an exquisite novel. It reads as though no word is wasted. This is clear when considering the title alone - Family Matters; a story about the goings on relevant to a family, as well as a declaration of the incredible importance of family. It is about family matters and why family matters. It should be said up front that like other Mistry novels this is not an obviously uplifting tale. What it is an honest exploration of family life. This novel is an intricate weaving of themes too numerous to discus in great detail. However, among the most important is aging, and the great burden and gift that time bestows upon a family. With this theme as the major vehicle, we are exposed to a full spectrum of family relationships: a father and his children (some of them step children), a grandfather and his grandchildren, siblings, step-siblings, a man and wife, a mother and her children. The novel begins with Nariman as an old man, suffering from the early stages of Parkinsons disease. Quickly the crisis of the novel occurs as Nariman suffers an accident, rendering him immobile.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Just arrived from Israel through BM. This is the first book written by Rohinton Mistry that I've read and I really liked it. The story is about the family of Nariman Vakeel, a 79 year old Parsi widower who suffers from Parkinson's disease. To worsen his physical health, he ends breaking his ankle, getting unable thus of getting around. Even living with his step-children, Coomy and Jal, they weren't able to take good care of their father. By forcing the circumstances, Nariman is forced to move to th Just arrived from Israel through BM. This is the first book written by Rohinton Mistry that I've read and I really liked it. The story is about the family of Nariman Vakeel, a 79 year old Parsi widower who suffers from Parkinson's disease. To worsen his physical health, he ends breaking his ankle, getting unable thus of getting around. Even living with his step-children, Coomy and Jal, they weren't able to take good care of their father. By forcing the circumstances, Nariman is forced to move to the flat of his younger daughter Roxanna and her family in a very tight apartment. By consequence, Roxanna's family will face with new challenges, from economical point of view and her children's education as well. Some religious and social issues are raised by the author along the narrative, specially concerning the Parsi's heritage after the Partition of India. A very realistic story written by some sense of humor. In any case, a magnificent and unforgettable book. Now, I must read A Fine Balance.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brinda

    Took me a while to get into this one -- but once I was in, it was quite a remarkable read. Mistry spins a tale about Bombay through the story of one family undergoing dramatic yet completely plausible, at times quiet, ordinary events. Mistry is not trying to wow anyone through crash-boom-bang events, yet even in its subtlety this story had a Shakespearean sense of tragedy and betrayal and loss -- not just for the family, but for a city whose beauty and vibrance was contantly underscored by corru Took me a while to get into this one -- but once I was in, it was quite a remarkable read. Mistry spins a tale about Bombay through the story of one family undergoing dramatic yet completely plausible, at times quiet, ordinary events. Mistry is not trying to wow anyone through crash-boom-bang events, yet even in its subtlety this story had a Shakespearean sense of tragedy and betrayal and loss -- not just for the family, but for a city whose beauty and vibrance was contantly underscored by corruption, violence and intolerance. And as usual, with any story written by an Indian immigrant, I read the story personally -- ultimately, this was a tribute to a city from the eyes of one far away from it, revealed through distinct memories and descriptions of photographs and references to Hindi songs and idioms, and charatcers highlighting its chaotic blend of creed and religion and class. Many tears were shed reading this one, as Bombay was my own home for 5 years, a city which I love dearly, though perhaps my love has more to do with my memories of it than with the present city itself, one from which now I am now so far removed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tejaswini

    It was like reading a play with the characters performing so well. The characters like the letter-writer,shop owner, violinist, gambler were very unique though playing the supporting cast were quite unique and lovable too. Sad that I was ignorant about this Indian author. Really loved reading this book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stella Chen

    A very slow novel that contain heart-felt moments and funny little devious schemes. Thia book, as I found out through my English teacher, has deeper meaning than just family. WHY CAN'T SOMETHING JUST BE SIMPLE. WHY MUST I OVER-ANALYSE THIS?

  28. 4 out of 5

    Preeti

    On the surface, it is a simple, slice-of-life story of a middle-class Parsi family living in Mumbai. At the center of all things, is Nariman Vakeel, battling both the onset of Parkinson's and the changing attitude of his stepchildren, Coomy and Jal, who find taking care of their father both difficult and distasteful. The youngest sibling, Roxanna, with her husband and two kids, is on the other side of this equation, balancing her siblings' lack of care with a kind of self-sacrificing love that b On the surface, it is a simple, slice-of-life story of a middle-class Parsi family living in Mumbai. At the center of all things, is Nariman Vakeel, battling both the onset of Parkinson's and the changing attitude of his stepchildren, Coomy and Jal, who find taking care of their father both difficult and distasteful. The youngest sibling, Roxanna, with her husband and two kids, is on the other side of this equation, balancing her siblings' lack of care with a kind of self-sacrificing love that both upsets and inspires you. Her husband, Yezad, as good a spouse and a father as he may be, does not live up to the same standards. He sees Roxanna accommodating the needs of her father at the cost of those of their two sons which angers him to no end. The kids, however, take after Roxanna, and in little ways, make their grandfather feel both welcome and loved. Their affection has a natural and sincere quality, free as it is from all notions of duty or sacrifice. They love their grandfather, quite simply, in sickness and in health, and don't understand how his presence creates strife in the lives of their parents. The impact of this book lies in the details, in all the small, seemingly inconsequential subtleties that define each character, be it the toy collection of Jal and Coomy, the envelopes of Roxanna, or Nariman's memories that come up as troubled dreams and escape in broken sentences. They all react to changes, and are changed themselves, not knowing how or why, nor always happy with the results. As an outsider, you are privy to all their thoughts and deepest secrets, and you see much too clearly the limits of their understanding. Soon you notice how suffering is often a result, not of malice, but of apathy. As someone who comes from a broken family, i have seen and lived through similar domestic strife. Which is perhaps why this book had a deeper impact on me. Mistry has crafted his characters with an incredible amount of detail and insight. Through their thoughts and actions, he brings together those age-old notions of family values and places them in a very contemporary world, where they survive and hold their ground in unexpected ways. It is a strange kind of hope that the book leaves you with. As clichéd as it may sound, Mistry's book highlights the power and significance of the smallest gestures of love and kindness. It both warms and breaks your heart, doesn't give you false hopes but rather, a perspective, and a sense of understanding for these deeply personal, tragi-comic family matters.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ambar

    It's a classic Rohinton Mistry, nobody expects the man to paint happy little rainbows, but melancholia seeps through the pages of Family Matters. In some ways, it's reminiscent of A Fine Balance, the manner in which characters are affected by events larger than themselves, but manage to trudge along until Mistry decides, in one fell swoop, to unleash all the horrors of hell upon them. In other ways, it's more like Such A Long Journey, with its focus on familial affairs and a (relative) tunnel vi It's a classic Rohinton Mistry, nobody expects the man to paint happy little rainbows, but melancholia seeps through the pages of Family Matters. In some ways, it's reminiscent of A Fine Balance, the manner in which characters are affected by events larger than themselves, but manage to trudge along until Mistry decides, in one fell swoop, to unleash all the horrors of hell upon them. In other ways, it's more like Such A Long Journey, with its focus on familial affairs and a (relative) tunnel vision view of Nariman Vakeel's family, as opposed to the panoramic bird's eye that is revealed in A Fine Balance. But Family Matters is also, in a way, unique. While there are political undertones to the book,quite definitely, two major themes being the orthodox v reform debate within the Parsi community, and communalism in Bombay following the Babri riots, and while these events materially and directly affect the lives of the protagonists, the spotlight is, to a much greater degree, on the characters themselves and their relationship with each other. And Rohinton Mistry really is one of the finest writers I've ever had the privilege of coming across. I don't know how he does it. More so than any of his previous books I think (which all have their own strengths) characters truly come to life in Family Matters.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul Secor

    Until recently, if someone had said to me that people and families can be very similar, no matter what the country or culture, I would have listened, filed that idea away, and forgotten about it. Now, having read Family Matters, I've come to understand and feel the truth of that notion. Rohinton Mistry's words and the characters he created have led to me to that understanding and feeling. The notion is a seemingly simple one, but one that's important and one that I hope stays with me. In my ignor Until recently, if someone had said to me that people and families can be very similar, no matter what the country or culture, I would have listened, filed that idea away, and forgotten about it. Now, having read Family Matters, I've come to understand and feel the truth of that notion. Rohinton Mistry's words and the characters he created have led to me to that understanding and feeling. The notion is a seemingly simple one, but one that's important and one that I hope stays with me. In my ignorance, I had never heard of Rohinton Mistry until a month ago. A tip of the cap to Paul Bryant for introducing me to this wonderful book. (Possibly relevant, possibly not) - Musical accompaniment during my last long afternoon of reading: Borodin: String Quartets 1 and 2 - Borodin Quartet Charles Mingus in Paris Ben Webster: Sophisticated Lady Schubert: Death and the Maiden - Takacs Quartet

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