by Rohinton Mistry
A moving and involving novel, Family Matters is the story of a Parsi family living in present day Mumbai. It begins with an accident – Nariman, the aging patriarch beset with Parkinsons, falls and breaks his ankle. His adult stepchildren resent caring for him and send him to his daughter, Roxana, who lives in a tiny two-roomed apartment with her husband, Yezad, and their two young sons.
The accident sets in motion a terrible chain of events which culminates in tragedy. At the same time, the family’s history with its murky secrets is gradually revealed. And, although Mistry writes with affection about Parsi rites, both stories have a parallel theme of the damage that ethnic exclusivity and strict observance of religious laws can cause.
As a portrait of post-colonial Mumbai it is fascinating: the excitement of the bustling developing metropolis is tempered by revelations of the corrupt political powers and nostalgia for the old community with its multi-faith harmony. Within the tension of this setting, Mistry’s characters, drawn with subtlety and insight, play out their domestic dramas, at once specific and universal. The relationships are complex and convincing, especially the mixture of tenderness, resentment and irritation towards the bedridden old man.