Questioni di famiglia By Rohinton Mistry

Rohinton Mistry Ý 1 REVIEW

As Nariman counts his last breaths amid the serene violin rendition of Brahms Lullaby, played by Daisy, my mind races through a gloomy apartment where the stale odor of eau de cologne amalgamates in the air of misery thriving among the bustling of outside traffic and noisy vendors trying to earn their daily wage unaware of Nariman’s existence. The acridity of my parched throat makes me think about my death. Will I die as a happy soul or will death be a gift that I would crave in the course of vulnerable seclusion? This is how Mistry’s words affect me, as I breathe and feel every emotion that flows through the ink. It is not because of my familiarity with the physical surroundings or the Parsi community, but the fact that Mistry writes a simple story of nameless ordinary faces with astonishing lives.

Old age and Parkinson’s disease has not only bed-ridden Nariman but made him a burden on his financially challenged children. Coomy and Jal, his step-children, both heading their prime and plagued by their own ailments coax Nariman’s biological daughter Roxanna into providing healthcare to her ailing father. A middle-class housewife with two young kids and a budgeted monthly survival faces a monstrous task by burning the candle at both ends. The woes of middle-classes ripened by bigotry and communalism are highlighted with sheer accuracy throughout the manuscript. The preposterous stubbornness of arranged marriages, the segregation of religious identities, stigmatism of step-parental aspects and the eternal financial instabilities mesh into a burdensome desperation of graphic cunningness. In Asian cultures, looking after elderly parents is viewed not only dutiful but the most obedient thing to do. The concept of old-aged homes is highly condemned in the Indian society (also, many other Asian cultures). Old age can be cruel and if plagued by incurable diseases it becomes a metal cage. A man who once was free to walk in the by lanes of his vicinity and enjoy a wonderful German orchestra at the nearby concert hall; Nariman was reduced to a mere caged mortal who longed for freedom to breathe fresh air, feel the splatter of rainwater as he walked through the puddles and for once make his own choices without being reprimanded for his doings. I empathize more towards Nariman than any other character in the book. Nariman could never marry his true love Lucy, for she was a Catholic, he could not bring his step-daughter (Coomy) to accept him as her father and now he was the sole reason for the rifts between his children. I wonder if my grandparents could have had found happiness if they were not arranged to be married? What would the circumstances be if my father was not financially well enough to take care of my grandfather during his last days surviving cancer? Would we have been deprived of basic amenities like butter or hot water and frantically hoped to find additional money in the budgeted envelopes of monthly payments? In a society where corruption is spelled in gold letters, and a man’s potency is derived from his monetary success, money matters; come what may.

Each sketched characters defines the ebb and flow of life and its greatness that we as children dream to achieve. Right from Nariman to Roxanna and even Yehzad (Roxanna’s husband) who once nurtured the dream of Canadian immigration, somehow end up in a vortex of familial or financial obligations of a capricious life. Mistry does not adhere either to pompous melancholic facades or epical anecdotes. He throws out the phrase of ordinary people with ordinary lives. For if, lives were ordinary, nostalgia would not be such a pain in the arse and worries would not construct topsy-turvy pathways.
Literary Fiction, Fiction Update: $2.99 kindle special today!!! It’s fabulous! I still haven’t read “A Fine Balance” yet - but own it. Everyone says that Books fantastic as well —
Yet I find it hard to believe that the author could write another book any better than this one. Perhaps! 😊
A $2.99 special for this family epic novel is a fantastic price!!!!

UPDATE....Nov. 17th ...Completed Book....Completed Review (STAGE 2)

This is my first book by Robinton Mistry. ( a dangerous novel to begin at 1am). Thankfully, the prior five hours sleep sustained me for another 5 hours. At which point,
I had to drift off again for a little more morning sleep.
Note: Today is Friday, Nov. 6th. (Hmmm, our daughter's 30th birthday)...
FAMILY MATTERS. .....( see, I couldn't resist 'not' thinking of 'family')

I was inspired to read this from having read *Seemita's* review ***3*** times.
Thank You, Seemita!

Note: I bought a physical book ( like New), for a penny, plus shipping for a total of $4.00. Crazy- ridiculously - beautiful - this book is...( whom I'll share with, my aunt,
and my neighbor Ardis). A few of my personal book lovers don't e-read, so it's important for me to give or share physical books. This book which traveled far to reach me -will land in the hands of others who will appreciate it.

I'll be writing this review in stages...( I'm obviously not finished with the book yet)...

I've read 113 pages so far ....
At this point it's Nariman Vakeel whom my heart breaks most. Having Parkinson's disease is no picnic, ... but then add the need for a hearing aid, bifocals, and dentures.
He has osteoporosis, and a broken leg. Medications, (sleeping pills and anti-diarrhea, etc.), are needed (one must remember the schedule). Bathing, clean clothes, simple tasks become difficult. Depression can be......'depressing'. The challenge of living with dignity with a failing physical body...could seem hopeless.
Enter the 'mind'....
What haunts Nariman, besides the fact that his independent life has been stripped away --is his memories for the woman he loved --forbidden to marry --
torments him again and again
I'll Be Back
.....5 stars so far....(if it goes down by the end of the book - I'll change the stars then)

Nariman is still the central character in my mind. ( 79 year old retired professor) ...'suffering'! The deeper I think about Nariman, the more it's clear he is suffering from all the most cherish things in life: love, health, happiness, and freedom.

Two days ago I was speaking to my close friend (76 year old retired professor), whose mother celebrated her 100th birthday just a month ago. They had a 3 day - huge family celebration for her. She is in excellent health --and looks amazing!
My 76 year old retired professor friend ( who passed on his thoughts to me about 'how to read the book Ulysses, by James Joyce), is also in great health, happy, loved, and thriving in all areas of his life. Married 45 years..travels.. no depression..loves to dance ( has a dance studio in their home), ...and very the opposite from Nariman.
So?? maybe there is hope? Yet..with the fragility that life is...we never know what's around the corner. Some days in our own outlook on life ... it can 'stink', with feelings like we're sloshing through the mud -- other days are smooth rolling and good enough -- and at rare times we feel exuberant.

Yet, another big difference between my retired professor's friends life ( and most of our lives), than with Narimam, was 'freedom-of-choice'.
By following the rules, beliefs, traditions, customs, of the Parsee ( Zoroastrian), religion - Nariman wasn't allowed to marry Lucy because she wasn't of the same faith.
I looked up more information about Zoroastrianism...( an ancient religious fading faith). ...which was important in this novel, because we got to see the bigger picture of problems that occur- long lasting - people scared from not being allowed intermarriage. It's never just one person who suffers when 'rights' are taken away. A fricken train load of people also suffer.

Nariman 's stepchildren carried resentment toward him. Coomy was bitter and domineering. Jal was more mild mannered and acquiescent. When they no longer wanted to take care of him - mostly tired of taking cared of his bodily functions..
after he broke his leg... They pass Nariman off to his biological daughter Roxana, her husband Yezad, and their two boys Jehanjir, and Murad. ( originally only for three weeks)....but with squabbling- fretting- arguing- ( feeling guilty), they begged not to take him back.
Smashed together like sardines in a small apartment flat, Roxana was a saint in taking care of her father - but she and Yezad were starting to fight over finances. Roxana and Yezad are also fighting with Coomy and Jal. The young children were having struggles adjusting as well.
Downstairs was Yezad's boss from The Bombay Sporting Goods Emporium, (Mr. Vikram Kapur), and a violinist from The Bombay Symphony, (Daisy). Daisy visited Nariman to play her violin to add comfort.

Each character had different personal concerns and challenges. I found I really couldn't judge any of them harshly -- but there were times I wished a character made a different choice than they did. For example Yezad started gambling illegally because he was having a hard time making ends with the added financial stress ( medical costs, etc.), from having Nariman live with them).

The setting in Bombay is integral to the book - the customs, languages, politics, religions, ( constant conflicts between Hindus and Muslims), and the overall spirit.

Reading Family Matters was sometimes sad it hurt, other times, so dramatic--I
I laughed silly:
What happened here?, asked Yezad. Fight?
Merman Irani explained that a scuffle had broken out with a customer. Saalo maaderchod came in like a king, sat down, and ordered tea with bun-muskaa, extra butter and all. With loud busy teeth, batchar-batcher, the bastard ate everything, happy as a goat in a garbage dump, and gurgled down his tea. When he got the bill he said, Sorry, no money. My waiter thought he was joking. But the bhonsrino kept
refusing to pay.
That was when the waiter pushed him and the fight began. Eventually, three waiters held the man down while Merwan himself went through the man's pockets.
But I found nothing except a snot-filled hankerchief. Absolute karko, not one paisa. He said he had no money, but he was hungry--just imagine the maaderchod's courage.
At least he was honest, said Vilas.

A masterpiece.... in the city of Bombay capturing the essence of India....*Timeless*-Terrific! This was written in 2002 - 13 years ago... ( feels like it was written today).
I recently read a debut novel, In Another Life, by Julie Christine Johnson,.....which I feel will prove to be 'Timeless'!! These at my favorite types of books.. books that
are ageless.

I highly recommend FAMILY MATTERS ....with its universal & family,
illness, life transitions, sibling rivalry, religion, financial stress, poverty, politics, culture, betrayal, loss, death, friendships, strengths, failings, regret, secrets, and our ordinary lives which are extraordinary in themselves.

This novel was like a friend!

Thank you to Seemita ...( my friend and inspiration in reading this)! Literary Fiction, Fiction Well, I read this the whole way through and Steve Urkel didn't appear once, folks.

This confirms my suspicion that Rohinton Mistry is one of the finest writers of our time. While I still preferred A Fine Balance of the two stories I've read by him (it was grander in scale), the more intimate Family Matters is still 100 percent 5-star fare with rich, evocative, Dickensian characters, set against the sprawling, corrupt, bustling backdrop of Bombay-soon-to-be-Mumbai, India.

When the 79-year-old patriarch of a Parsi family Nariman--recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease--breaks his ankle and becomes bedridden, his stepson Jal and stepdaughter Coomy become overwhelmed caring for him, and enlist the help of their half-sister, Roxana. (And by enlist, I mean show up unannounced at her two-room cramped flat--which she shares with her husband Yezad and two small children, Jehangir and Murad--and unceremoniously dump Nariman off.)

Despite the close quarters, Roxana does her best to make this new living situation work, mostly because of her absolute, unconditional love for her father, and the strong bond the family shares. Jehangir and Murad see the new living arrangement as a huge adventure, fighting over whose turn it is to sleep on the balcony (there is no room in the flat), and airplane-feeding their cherished grandfather his meals.

All bonds are tested, however; the book examines what happens when the family--repeatedly--is taken to its limit. The point of view is third-person omniscient, with special care given to Jehangir, who is the youngest and most impressionable when Nariman moves in. (It's only fitting that he delivers the Epilogue in the first person.) Corruption, jealousy, regret, and resentment all take turns rearing their heads; I found myself wondering again and again if the story would have a happy ending. I don't think it's a spoiler to say the author delivers both happy and sad, as he is adept at delivering throughout.

Like with A Fine Balance, I was in complete awe at how deftly Mistry wrote realistic yet poetic dialogue, and weaved the struggles and problems of India at large into a single cast of memorable, yet ordinary characters. Mistry demonstrates better than any writer that every individual has an amazing story to tell.

Magnificent. Literary Fiction, Fiction

The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.
Flipping through the pages, my heart leapt many times; those waves bearing the ring of countenance were from still stream but the ones with ripples of accusation roared thunder. Accusation? Accusation hurled towards whom? The fictional characters delicately brought to life by the stinging brush of the author or the guilty, manipulative, egocentric, conceited character of mine? Did my fingers pause typing these words defining myself? They did. And it also confirmed my worst fears: I am no angel and the pristine white enveloping me is a well-fabricated dwelling that I carry with temporary aplomb, aware somewhere deep inside that some of its bricks are turning cancerous by my vices.

Why, else, should I feel tormented at the sight of a 78-year old, Parkinson’s afflicted Nariman Vakeel, whose profound literary mind is reduced to a negligible fraction, not by the disease and a broken leg but by the invalidating abandonment of Coomy and Jal, his step-children? Why, else, should I feel torn by the disintegrating domestic fabric of his other daughter, Roxana whose tireless strides of nursing her fragile father come at the cost of her husband, Yezad’s never-seen-before condescension? Why, else, should I feel numbed at the virtues of a nine-year old Jehangir who knows to read the silent whimpers of his grandpa with sensitivity far greater than his parents'? Why else, should I feel jealous of the wasted lottery seller, Villie, who carries behind her shabby attire and even shabbier house, a heart of gold that gladly spills over to brighten her neigbours’ gloomy lives? Why, else, should I envy Husain, the looted peon, who possesses a spirit so much greater than the loss he suffered at the hands of religious fanatics that his volatility alone is his purifying fragrance? Why, else, should I feel staggered at the pouring of Mr.Kapur, whose benevolence weds passion in such fierce ceremony that his employees, Yezad and Husain get absolved of all their sorrows in its pious fire? Why, else, should I feel frozen to witness the eternal nerve of meritoriousness that holds its own in Jal, despite three dominating decades of Coomy's heedlessness? Why, else, should I stand dwarfed by Nariman who bears the burning thorns on his soul, adamantly barricading their venomous pricks from seeping into his heart and its inhabitants?

When the flute of life suddenly starts belting cantankerous sounds, it is easier to blame the flute maker; the chinks in our playing armour are conveniently swept beneath the carpet. That the sea of life will keep us afloat for a while and then swallow us without exception is a reality that eludes us when we are on shore. It is only the compassionate, who can not only empathize with the unruliness of the sea from afar but also send a boat of good words and deeds to ease the ride for those who are sea-bound next.
A letter is like a perfume. You don’t apply a whole bottle. Just one dab will fill your senses. Words are the same – a few are sufficient.
All days would remain the same if not for an act of kindness or a sliver of smile. Mistry knew it better than many of us. Hence, he did not leave a single chapter in this magnificent book where the beauty of innocence did not bathe us anew or the splendor of solidarity did not shake our shackles. His observations kissed the earthy tones of daily life and enlivened their cells to shine a little. He mixed the odours of past and present and softly pressed the nozzle to fill the future room with a foreign aroma that became our own on touching our skins. He maneuvered with utmost care, almost gracefully imitating Nariman’s movements, not ruffling our senses acutely but with a gentle thrust, like shaking a medicine bottle to get the mix right and placed a few shards of mirror on our palms: they did not cut, they did not intimidate, they simply showed our reflection.
Amazing, how a photo shows you things that your eyes forgot to see.
Literary Fiction, Fiction Another richly derived character-driven novel by Rohinton Mistry!

1. Interactions between family members and acquaintances, sometimes amusing, sometimes confusing, always emotional, are told from various POV, young and old, male and female. I was drawn to ALL the characters, but especially to Nariman Vakeel and Vikram Kapur;
2. some LOL moments were nicely interspersed with the tragic moments; and,
3. I learned and/or was reminded a lot about India and its people in this story, such as:
(a) the insidious role of the Shiv Sena political party;
(b) the various reasons for religious tensions that sometimes led to the barbaric lengths people would go to discourage religious mingling;
(c) the rampant nationwide corruption, even in grade school;
(d) the Sanjay sterilization, a dark history in India; and,
(e) water rationing when water is only available for a small time each day.

1. Why would someone be bedridden with a broken ankle in the 1990s with a cast encasing the entire leg and foot? This would have been more probable if the tibia or femur was broken; and,
2. a reader familiar with Indian vocabulary would definitely appreciate reading this book, but I had to continually Google words that were out of context. A glossary would have been most helpful!

Overall Thoughts:
Not as powerful as Mistry's A Fine Balance, but this story showed how simple actions and gestures can lead to strife and misery. Mistry reminds us to take pleasure in beautiful things - defeat the sadness and sorrow of life. For me, the story doesn't end abruptly - it shows that life simply goes on. Literary Fiction, Fiction


La storia si impernia su Nariman, un vedovo di 79 anni di religione parsi, che vive con il figliastro e la figliastra. La moglie è morta parecchi anni prima, lasciando questi due bambini avuti dal primo matrimonio e una figlia, Roxanna, che hanno avuto insieme. Nariman ha speso tutti i soldi per dare a Roxanna e al marito, Yezad, una casa tutta loro, perché lei non dovesse vivere con lui nella dimora d'infelicità. Questioni di famiglia

Curious, he thought, how, if you knew a person long enough, he could elicit every kind of emotion from you, every possible reaction, envy, admiration, pity, irritation, fury, fondness, jealousy, love, disgust. But in the end all human beings became candidates for compassion, all of us, without exception...and if we could recognize this from the
beginning, what a saving in pain and grief and misery...

This thought from Yezad (ch 17) sums up his moment of insight in this teeming story of generational family matters, complicated by inter-religious bickering, unfaithfulness of various kinds, jealousies, rivalries and surrounded by the massively overwhelming city of Bombay, being reborn (but not really changed) as Mumbai.

Mistry is a master of the detail. In this city of millions, he finds the details to make a short walk memorable, the different sects and types to populate the streets, all for background to the main story of the Vakeels and Contractors and Chenoys. There are moments of beautiful emotion balanced against extreme thoughtlessness bordering on hate, described so well I felt I could see the faces, hear the words.

There is so much here; it is Dickensian in scope and has many of the same concerns: poverty, illness, inequality of opportunity, politics and government all as malevolent influences on daily life. But this is modern day not 19th century. This is a family struggling to be a modern family in the late 20th century but cursed by family hatreds and misunderstandings. Such is life anywhere and everywhere perhaps.

Highly recommended 4^ Literary Fiction, Fiction What, I didn't review Family Matters? Okay, here is the review :

Rohinton Mistry -

three novels, three five star ratings


Literary Fiction, Fiction I love the double meaning of the title where Matters can be both noun or verb. It presages the story within that can be both the goings on of a single family or the human family and what matters in our common human condition. Mistry is wonderfully deft, giving us the story of a family in Bombay, and yet shining a light on the strengths and foibles, worries and struggles, work and loves of people everywhere.

There are some really beautiful parts, the younger son Jehangir’s perceptions and deep love and concern for each member of his family, the insights of the father’s friend who writes letters for illiterate workers to their families back in their home villages, the mother’s devotion, the violinist. The list goes on.

The need for money, the agony of blighted love, choosing (or not) to hold grudges, being selfish over forgiveness and kindness, growing old and infirm, trying to hold to ideals and principles, what we owe one another—these and more are looked at with deep feeling in beautiful language.

A solid four and a half stars.

(And a chance to learn about the Parsi community in India.) Literary Fiction, Fiction “He’s gone over the edge, … deep into the abyss of religion.”

It occurred to me as I was looking over the opinions of a few other people who had enjoyed FAMILY MATTERS, that a good characterization of Mistry’s delicious prose might be “neo-Dickensian”. The plot, such as it is, is absurdly simple and the movement in that plot, slow but steady and compelling, is all driven by the extraordinary depths, the motivations and the personalities that he has created in his dramatis personae. Even those characters that might be considered as little more than walk-on cameos are embellished, described and brought to life to an amazing degree.

As a young man in Bombay, Nariman Vakeel was forced by his devoutly fundamentalist Parsi parents to give up the love of his life and to enter into an unhappy, arranged marriage with a widow inside his faith, already the mother of a young son and daughter. That part of the story is revealed by flashback dreams of a now aged Vakeel, painfully bedbound as the result of a broken bone and advancing Parkinson’s. The forward-moving portion of the story simply tells of the ever escalating conflict between Vakeel’s daughter’s family and his two spiteful step-children as they struggle with the care of their aging and deteriorating parent. Family, poverty, east Indian culture and society, life in the enormous metropolis of Mumbai, and the unreasoning demands of fundamentalist Zoroastrianism are the themes that dominate this phenomenal novel.

I owned FAMILY MATTERS for quite some time before I decided to pick it up and read it. I don’t mind admitting that I was nervous it wouldn’t come up the standard that Mistry had set for himself in A FINE BALANCE, one of the finest novels that I’ve had the privilege to read in my entire lifetime. I shouldn’t have worried. The words that readers will choose to describe FAMILY MATTERS are legion – lush, mellifluous, warm, funny, evocative, compelling, poignant, sad, heartwarming, frightening, provocative, entertaining, thoughtful, bleak, raw, epic, gripping, moving, convincing – well, I think you get the idea!

FAMILY MATTERS makes it onto my “highly recommended” list and then some. Having read two of this fine Canadian author’s three novels, I’ll now be hunting down the third, SUCH A LONG JOURNEY.

Paul Weiss Literary Fiction, Fiction This is my second straight read of Rohinton Mistry after “Such a long journey”. The strength of his books is very clearly in the colourful build-up of the characters. They are so real that you start reading along, thinking how easily you could be in this situation yourself.

The story of Yezad, his wife Roxanna, their children, dependent father in law Nariman Vakeel, Nariman's step children Coomie and Jal. The book toggles between Nariman's life - the joys and pains, as also his having to marry someone other than the love of his life. There is a very tragic incident involving both his wife and love which is revealed much later in the book. At the present time, Nariman breaks his leg and ends up being bed ridden for a period. His step children Coomie and Jal struggle to take care of him, and he moves temporarily to his daughter Roxanna and family’s place.

As part of a lower middle class family, Yezad and Roxanna struggle to make ends meet, and with this the care required for Nariman falls on them.There are very touching incidents revealing what a very hard situation can do to good people. While Yezad toys with ways to somehow make some more money, the children feel obligated to chip in as well. As in “Such a long journey”, there are random musings by the characters in the story about Mumbai, its problems, the politics and everything else.

After periods of struggle, the characters settle to a kind of troubled peace where though financial worries subside to some extent, real peace of mind is still elusive.

Do not expect grand plots or twists. Instead though you will find real people and live their joy and sorrow, as you read. And for that - the book is certainly recommended. Literary Fiction, Fiction