I was mulling over which book to review first. Choosing just one from my many favourites was quite a task but I decided to choose ‘Family Matters’ by Rohinton Mistry as it revolves around certain archetypes that are close to my heart – family, caring for the elderly and the city where I was born and raised, Bombay.
The protagonist of the book, Nariman Vakeel, is an endearing sort of fellow. You instantly empthaise with him as he grapples with the debilitating nature of Parkinson’s disease amidst the many vagaries of old age. He must, along with his health problems; deal with what the author alludes to as ‘family matters’. These involve managing household finances, carrying out mundane chores, dealing with each other’s idiosyncrasies and still managing to function as one relatively sane unit. The other characters in the book namely Nariman’s stepchildren and his own daughter and her nuclear family are also brilliantly crafted by Rohinton Mistry who according to me is a master wordsmith.
The book is set against the backdrop of Bombay and instantly takes you down the familiar scenes of South Bombay be it its Victorian architecture, the vegetable and fruit markets or the colloquial tongue of the Indian Parsi community.
As the book progresses, Mistry doesn’t always make you feel like a mute observer. He gives you as much stimulation that you would hope for in a novel with such a relatable and well woven plot. At times you are cheering Nariman on whilst he struggles to achieve something as routine as tying his shoelaces and at other times you cringe wondering why he behaves unreasonably with those that love him dearly. And every time, you want him to persevere and emerge victorious.
Finally, the book impacts you in one way or another, prodding you to reflect on your own life and what makes it worth living - Family.