Primary Category: Literature / Fiction
- Wear, Delese
- Date of entry: Jan-31-2003
- Last revised: Mar-22-2010
Retired professor Nariman Vakeel, suffering at 79 from Parkinson’s disease and a broken ankle that won’t heal, is more or less cast out of his home by his stepchildren to be cared for by his married daughter Roxana, her husband Yezad, and their two sons. The novel is a portrait of family life and the strife among siblings amidst moments of grace when an aging parent requires care; it is also a rich account of life in Bombay’s Parsi community in the mid-1990s.
The title of Mistry’s third novel can be read as a chronicle of family matters and as a pronouncement that families, however flawed, do indeed matter. Unlike his previous novel (A Fine Balance) that was powerfully sweeping across time and place, this deals with a single extended family in contemporary Bombay.
So much sadness and resentment opens the novel because of the bitterness felt by Nariman’s stepdaughter Coomy who cannot rid herself of memories of the loveless marriage between her widowed mother and Nariman. She cares for him fastidiously but cruelly, and when he breaks his ankle she plots a way to get him out from under her care and into the home of her stepsister Roxana.
This casting out of Nariman is heartless, but the scenes in Roxana’s tiny living room are almost heartbreaking as she and her two young boys care for him, even as their home becomes permeated with the odors and excretions of a dying man. Yezad, Roxana’s husband, is also affected by the presence of Nariman, who has disrupted their routine and caused even more financial worries than they already had.
While family caregiving occupies much of the narrative, contemporary life in Bombay occupies another layer as Yezad succumbs to a corrupt plot to deceive his employer for financial gain. His disappointment with his life at home and work results in temper flare-ups and insensitive treatment of his father-in-law, confusing the already overstressed Roxana. All said, Family Matters is a wonderfully written story of an ordinary family faced with the trials of caregiving and the changes in individuals and in relationships brought about by such challenges.