Family Life (Paperback)

By Akhil Sharma

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393350609, 240pp.

Publication Date: February 2, 2015



We meet the Mishra family in Delhi in 1978, where eight-year-old Ajay and his older brother Birju play cricket in the streets, waiting for the day when their plane tickets will arrive and they and their mother can fly across the world and join their father in America. America to the Mishras is, indeed, everything they could have imagined and more: when automatic glass doors open before them, they feel that surely they must have been mistaken for somebody important. Pressing an elevator button and the elevator closing its doors and rising, they have a feeling of power at the fact that the elevator is obeying them. Life is extraordinary until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother severely brain-damaged and the other lost and virtually orphaned in a strange land. Ajay, the family's younger son, prays to a God he envisions as Superman, longing to find his place amid the ruins of his family's new life.

Heart-wrenching and darkly funny, Family Life is a universal story of a boy torn between duty and his own survival.

Conversation Starters from

  1. The novel opens in the present, when Ajay is forty and his parents are elderly. How does this opening affect your experience of the rest of the novel, which takes place during Ajay’s childhood?generic viagra price canada
  2. America is marvelous to the Mishra family at first. If tragedy hadn’t struck, do you think that America would have met the Mishras’ expectations for it? Or do you think that at least certain elements of their disillusionment were inevitable?generic viagra price canada
  3. How does the Mishras’ status as immigrants affect their experience of Birju’s accident? How might their lives following the accident have played out differently if they weren’t strangers in a strange land?generic viagra price canada
  4. What do you make of Ajay’s conversations with God following his brother’s accident? Describe the God that Ajay invents for himself. How does his God help him, and how doesn’t he? Can you pinpoint the moment in the novel when Ajay stops talking to God?generic viagra price canada
  5. Describe the process by which Ajay becomes a writer. How does writing change the way he experiences his childhood?generic viagra price canada
  6. In the aftermath of Birju’s accident, Ajay’s mother turns to religion and his father to alcohol. How are these two coping mechanisms different? Do you think they have anything in common? Do you think that Ajay’s own way of coping—academic success—has anything in common with his parents’?generic viagra price canada
  7. Did you find moments in Family Life funny, despite its darkness? What kind of humor does the novel possess?generic viagra price canada
  8. Describe the prose style in Family Life. What do you think the author achieves through the candor and lack of sentimentality in his storytelling?generic viagra price canada
  9. On the second anniversary of his brother’s accident, Ajay thinks, “I couldn’t believe that everything had changed because of three minutes” (page 129). What do you make of this? How does the brevity of the accident itself affect your experience of the passage of time in the novel, which takes place over many years? Has your own life ever changed so drastically, so quickly?generic viagra price canada
  10. Compare and contrast the scenes when the family is awaiting news of Ajay’s college acceptances to the scenes when they are awaiting news of Birju’s high school acceptance.generic viagra price canada
  11. Describe Ajay’s love life in high school and beyond. What is he seeking from his girlfriends? In what ways is he being honest with them, and in what ways, dishonest? How are his relationships with women affected by his experience with his brother? His experience as an immigrant? Describe some of your own high school relationships.generic viagra price canada
  12. Family Life ends in a moment of ambiguity. “I got happier and happier,” Ajay says. “In the distance was the beach and the breaking waves and the red seaplane bobbing in the water. The happiness was almost heavy. And that was when I knew I had a problem” (page 218). What is it about this moment and about Ajay’s happiness that tells him he has a problem? How would you describe his problem? Do you think he’ll ever escape or solve it?generic viagra price canada