Diving into the wreck

There’s something like detachment that floats across the pages of Akhil Sharma’s highly lauded  “Family Life.” Slated to appear at the library at 7pm on April 16, the author is receiving wide praise from critics for the story of an immigrant Indian family whose lives are torn asunder when their eldest son sustains injuries that render him almost lifeless after hitting his head at the bottom of a swimming pool.

It’s not the accident that appears in the foreground, but the repercussions that take center stage. Rooted in non-fiction, it is a story of detachment, hope, and despair; it’s a portrait of time passing, but, even more so, the stagnancy of existence. It’s a breakdown, a tragedy; a family’s life that seems anything but alive. And, mostly it’s the story from the lens of Ajay, the younger child (who is very closely based on the author, himself), who has been left with parents who cannot seem to find the room to be parents to their healthy son.

If you’re not familiar with Sharma, perhaps you should be. Aside from landing on the cover of this past week’s New York Times Book Review, his name is included on the list of Princeton University graduates who have had the fortune of studying under such luminaries as Toni Morrison, Russell Banks and John McPhee. And, though his academic pedigree shines, his words indicate he is no stranger to the unwelcome surprises life can throw our way. As readers, we can count ourselves fortunate that Sharma has chosen to dive into a childhood which has so clearly propelled him to work to overcome his loss.

Akhil Sharma is the author of “An Obedient Father,” winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His writing has appeared in The New YorkerThe AtlanticBest American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award Stories. A native of Delhi, he lives in New York City.

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