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An Obedient Father

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  475 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Readers opening this first novel from Akhil Sharma find themselves face to face with a wildly unappealing main character. Ram Karan is a corrupt civil servant, chubby and self-hating. "I had been Mr. Gupta's moneyman for a little less than a year and was no good." Ram has no illusions about his failings: "My panic in negotiations was so apparent that even people who were e ...more
Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Published (first published June 1st 2000)
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Heidi I didn't continue with this book…. though the Delhi descriptions were wonderful I lost the plot somewhere….
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,189)
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Preeti
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Yves Gounin
J'adore la littérature indienne.
J'aime sa richesse, sa touffeur. J'aime ses histoires compliqués, ses héros hauts en couleur..
Je n'ai pas été déçu avec ce roman d'un jeune prodige né en 1971 (comme moi) (zut, il n'est donc pas si jeune)
Comme dans les grands romans indiens, Akhil Sharma parvient à entrelacer la petite histoire avec la grande.
D'un côté l'Inde des années 90. Rajiv Gandhi est assassiné. La mainmise des Nehru sur l'Inde touche à son terme. Le parti du Congrès, omnipotent depuis l'Ind
...more
Denise
This is not an easy book to review; nor is it easy to read. The main character, an overweight alcoholic, political crook and child molester, tells most of the story from his point of view. Although he is mostly a vile man, there are some times you forget yourself and feel some sympathy towards him.

He molests his oldest daughter, Anita, when she was 12. Twenty years later, Anita is a widow with a young daughter of her own. She is forced to take her daughter and move in with her father, who she h
...more
Rebecca
A very kind bookcrosser (Edwardstreet) sent me this book after seeing it on my wishlist.

Why I put this book on my wishlist, I have no idea, but after hearing the author Akhil Sharma on a podcast from The Ubud Writer's Festival I quickly dragged this off my bookshelf to read over the holidays.

Having no idea what the book was about, and pulling it out of my beach bag to read last month on the sand I groaned audibly when I realised where the story was going. Generally not what I choose to read - es
...more
Dawn McCarthy
Despite this book's horrific subject manner, there was a bit of genius in the writing. While the reader is inside the head of the main character, who, to put it nicely, is a vile man, the reader both loathes and somehow can feel some pity for him, once all of his sins catch up with him. While reading this, you know everything he has done is reprehensible but, because you are reading it from his perspective, you almost feel sorry for him when he gets what he pretty much deserves. Getting the read ...more
Becky
This book is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's written with a light hearted, conversational tone that belies the horrors underneath. On one level, the protagonist is a corrupt bureaucrat, given to betting on the wrong horse in political races and using other people's money to extricate himself from sticky situations. Despite the fact this part of the story covers some pretty major political events and a real time of turmoil in India's history, it's not this side of the book that really shocks. It ...more
Rob
Sep 06, 2009 Rob rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rob by: David Sedaris
Shelves: 2009
The write-up on the back of the edition that I read describes Sharma's protagonist as a bit of a Dostoevskyian anti-hero. This makes sense: Sharma gives us a corrupt, alcoholic, child-molesting bureaucrat as the vehicle through which most of the story is told. And—call me old fashioned—this makes the story just that much harder to get through; any time you have a protagonist so wretched, so miserable, so abhorrent that you are viscerally—even physically—angered by them... Well, good luck finishi ...more
Eveline Chao
When books are really good it's hard for me to think of anything to say about them - it's so much easier to criticize, ha. But yeah, amazing and emotionally devastating. Be forewarned though that it's mostly told through the voice of a child molester, so reading this is a pretty intense emotional commitment! Swear it's worth it though.
Eileen
ERC Book Club, June 2004 selection

Boring ... especially regarding Indian politics which the author assumes the reader might have an inkling of what's going on. The father and daughter were both not enviable and dissatisfying. You would think the reader would identify or empathize with the daughter who was raped. Instead I felt more sad for the father and distaste for the daughter who gained nothing for herself in telling the truth. The ending was abrupt and, like the rest of book, went abso
...more
Faye
If you had a hard time reading Lolita you might want to take this one off your 'to read' list. The primary theme is the impact of rampant corruption on the life of one family in Delhi, India. I thought I wouldn't be able to finish the book, its written from the point of view of a man that rapes his own daughter. Tough topic but great writing, at one the point the grime that quickly accumulates on your skin in the Delhi slum is compared to the inside of a smokers' lung. Surprised by the somewhat ...more
Jay
I guess 3.5 stars would be more on the mark. Akhil Sharma is a phenomenal writer, no question. Reading this book, I savored every sentence, every detail because he draws them with utmost precision and his language is both spare and dazzlingly evocative. This is a family saga about the aftermath of rape as an aging, thoroughly corrupt government functionary and sex addict, first, rapes his daughter, then, twenty years later, finds his lusts awakened while in the company of his granddaughter. The ...more
Siv30
בכריכה האחורית של הרומאן נכתב:

"האב הצייתן לוקח את הקורא למסע עמוק בתוך עולם של משפחות הודיות ופוליטיקה של גנגסטרים וכוכבי קולנוע, מהומות וחדרי מתים. הרומאן הנפלא והרגיש הזה, שזכה בפרס "פן/ המינגווי" וכונה על ידי המבקרים "יצירת מופת", מציג דמות מעונה, משעשעת ומורכבת מבחינה מוסרית, לא פחות מאשר דמות האנטי -גיבור של דוסטוייבסקי".

לא פחות ולא יותר. דוסטוייבסקי בבוליווד.

אין לי ספק שכותב הכריכה האחורית לא התכוון לזלזל באינטיליגנציה של הקוראים. אבל לתאר את דמותו של קרן, גיבור הספר, כ"משעשעת ומורכבת מבחי
...more
Kanika Sood
Reading this book is a test of morality. You may catch yourself holding your breath with Ram Karan as he embezzles election funds. You may also get annoyed with Anita, Ram Karan's elder daughter who was raped by her father at 12, for behaving irritably. Your heart may warm towards Ram Karan when he goes to secretly meet his grand daughter, Asha, who he unsuccessfully attempts to rape in the first chapter. As you go through the pages and the writer, time and again, brings you back to the flat tha ...more
Helen Mallon
I wish I could give this book five stars and one star, simultaneously. I love Akhil Sharma. A radio interview with him inspired me to consider that literary fiction can be "comforting" to the reader--his word. This is not the book that Sharma wrote to inspire hope. It was so grim that I had to speed-read it. It's a brilliant examination of how the web of abuse, political corruption, and hatred can draw the most well-intentioned into its inescapable corrosion. When children are involved, it's eve ...more
Kecia
Ram Karan is a miserable human being, and yet Sharma portrays him in such a way that the reader can actually feel some sympathy for him. He's a not a totally bad person - he saves the lives of a Sikh family and is rather humble about the experience. He loves his children and grandchildren but cannot control his impulses. And he knows what he does is wrong but is unable to stop himself. All of this combines to paint a very moving and vivid portrait of an awful person.

Cautionary Note: This book h
...more
Nelda Brangwin
This was a difficult book for me to read. But Sharma’s writing pulled me into a very sad story. A father in India molests his young daughter. As a young widow with a young daughter of her own, financial poverty forces Anita to return to living with her father. Her fear and anger at her father overflows especially when she sees him rubbing against his granddaughter as the granddaughter sleeps. Ram knows he was wrong, but can he make amends? It is a sad touch story about the past which Ram had hop ...more
Kelly
can't put it down - so good
Ali
Ram Karan, a corrupt official in the Delhi Education Department, is a sad, bumbling, character tortured by a terrible secret. When the country is plunged into confusion following Rajiv Gandhi's murder, he finds himself trapped in a series of deadly political betrayals with little or no protection.


I didn't enjoy this book as much as I had expected to unfortunately. Because of being so busy at the end of last week, and away all weekend with a bunch of people from work - I read it slower than I mi
...more
Catherine
Why is this on the 1001 list? Is it because it is set in India but not of India, dealing with a difficult subject that crosses cultures and continents? Or because it does so having been written by somebody living and working in the west, so we get to hear about it? I don't know, but Rohinton Mistry ticks all the same boxes, writes a lot better and has characters that one can actually love.

I'm afraid that, in spite of Sharma's attempts to paint Karan sympathetically, I couldn't feel pity for him,
...more
Jennifer
A book that literally kept me tossing and turning at night. It is so deeply sad, and, surprisingly, not solely due to the subject matter of incest: the exposure of the selfish and careless nature of ALL of the characters is the most devastating part. Despite this, the author is able to convey the characters in such a way as to deserve the reader's pity, which is an amazing feat considering the horrible thoughts and actions committed. A very complicated novel that is worth the hours lying awake.
Richbern
One of the oddest books I've read. While I was expecting another rich and absorbing story of India, this turned out to be about an Indian patriarch who is both a pedophile and a thief. Beyond the distasteful subject matter, the author writes in a clinical manner that, I assume, is meant to distance the reader from the horrors of the protagonist. Instead it simply keeps the reader uninvolved--and uninterested.
Canadian 135
I wish I hadn't read this book, or had put it down in disgust and not picked it up again. The protagonist is a monster; a corrupt Indian bureaucrat with no moral worth whatsoever. He rapes his daughter, horribly; then 20 years later, is attracted to his granddaughter. Interesting examination of Indian politics; and a portrayal of the lack of choices of widows in India...But, I wouldn't recommend.
Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed
Sometimes the writing is so powerful, so perfect, that you get a glimpse of the author's talent. Other times the story meanders. Ultimately, the overarching narrative does not feel successful but you will be haunted by the characters. Not for the faint of heart, it is hard to read this book, but also hard to look away as the characters destroy themselves and each other.
Sheri
This is Sharma's first novel, set in Delhi during the reign of the Nehru family (Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi). The father of the title seems like a sympathetic character until you learn more about him & his family as the story unfolds. Nothing is black and white in this narrative, but it's quite a fascinating tale about how precarious life can be.
Julie Whelan
This is a dark, intense look at guilt, how families deal with immoral behavior, as well as the current graft and Machiavellian politics of Indian. The inner psychological dimensions of the story are mirrored in the political landscape where BJP and Congress are equally corrupt and just out for power and money. In many ways it is reminiscent of Crime and Punishment as follow the main character who is a corrupt political worker who sexually abused one of his daughters. This daughter, Anita, is now ...more
Sashi
Highly recommended by David Sedaris when I went to one of his stand-up readings, and now I am wondering why. It is quite disconcerting to read about incest and bribery and everything else bad about Indians. Yet, one can relate to every political incident mentioned. Tormenting book. The cruelty of the raped daughter when she turns into a monster is unbearable. You land up feeling sorry of the poor bastard who raped her, when all the time you were horrified at what he did to her. Situation is unbe ...more
Eric
***SPOILER ALERT***

An Obedient Father tells three stories:

1. Indian history, culture and society (including a flashback to its independence from England),
2. Political corruption, and
3. Child molestation

Mr. Paran Karan is the protagonist and he is the most evil of human beings - an utterly despicable child molester of the worst kind. How evil? He molests and rapes his daughter and twenty years later molests his granddaughter! He is also a bagman for bribes and other illegal transactions as his
...more
Nils
Indisk grått familieportrett om korrupt og incestuøs tjenestemann. Hever seg ikke over det gjennomsnittlige.
Vivek Rajnish
this book is readable because of this i want to read this.
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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 Yorker, The Atlantic, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award Stories. A native of Delhi, he lives in New York City.
More about Akhil Sharma...
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