Father Arjun is a strict and traditional Indian father, wanting to impress upon his children the importance of embracing their Indian identity. Mother Sunila just wants to be as British as possible, aiding her children in leaving behind all that their father values. Children Murad and Tarani feel misunderstood by their father and are, like so many immigrant children, caught uncomfortably between two worlds. The family is wracked with tension and unhappiness. And as the novel opens, they are also grieving for the loss of Arjun's happy younger brother, Jonti, who has died from a hereditary degenerative disease, leaving behind a young family. Arjun's grief is compounded by the fact that he suspects that he too is in the beginning stages of the family's degenerative wasting disease.
Each chapter of the novel takes place a year further on from the previous chapter and a year further into Arjun's slow slide into disease himself. This helps capture the small moments, the failings, and difficult love that make up a family life and highlights the inexorable march of time. The chapters focus on different characters although throughout the main focus remains on Arjun, the progression of his disease, and its impact on the family, as well as the progression of the family's assimilation. His loss of physical dexterity echoes the emotional loss and fraying connection to his own culture; Arjun is losing touch both literally and figuratively.
All of the characters are realistic, fully rounded, and generally sympathetic. The two parts of the novel, separated by thirty years, have two different feels to them, highlighting the changes to the once hale, hearty, and athletic Arjun into a gentler, less physical man than he used to be. Rather than a traditional novel, this has the feel of intimate snapshots in the life of this family. It is chronological, yet skipping large swathes of time. The pacing is relaxed and the novel is gracefully written, a quick and appealing read.
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Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.