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Family Matters

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  12,872 ratings  ·  579 reviews
This story centres on a 79-year-old Parsi widower named Nariman who lives with his stepson and stepdaughter. Nariman's wife died many years before, leaving behind the two children from her first marriage and the daughter, Roxanna, they had together.
Unknown Binding, 487 pages
Published December 31st 2001 by Faber & Faber
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"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 generati...more
This book did for me what Suketu Mehta's "Bombay. Maximum City" couldn't - I could see, smell and feel the mega-city throughout the pages of this both realistic and nostalgic novel. I suppose that also my unability to throrouhghly enjoy non-fiction plays a role in this, I just need characters and plot to stay interested through a thick volume and Mistry provides both in a masterly way. Bombay and his protagonist's love and hate for the rotting and still lovely and lively place is one of the topi...more
Nov 06, 2007 Rebecca rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absolutely anyone
I usually feel a little bit of glow after finishing any book. I have the bad habit of calling every book I just finished "my favorite" -- until I finish the next one. But in this case, I really must stress that Family Matters is one of the best books I have ever read. I never re-read books, but this is one of those rare gems that even I want to return to.

If you took all of Shakespeare's tragedies, condensed them into a story about one family, and set it in Bombay in the 1990s, this book would b...more
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 vu...more
ETA: The only reason I originally gave this three rather than two stars was that:

1. it accurately describes the deplorable way we today deal with old age and sickness in MANY countries of the world, and

2. not all blame was heaped on the government. People are who they are and unfortunately we often fail in coping with sick and/or elderly in our own family.

The book was realistic. In its realism I found it terribly depressing.


All I can say is that this book made me...more
What, I didn't review Family Matters? Okay, here is the review :

Rohinton Mistry -

three novels, three five star ratings


Ben Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rating: 4.5/5

This book is not surprisingly about a family. More specifically, it follows three generations of a Parsi family living in modern Mumbai (formerly Bombay). As the grandfather of the family, Nariman is likely the best candidate to be declared the main character of this novel, but it is truly and ensemble cast, with Nariman's step children Jal and Coomy, his daugther and son-in-law Roxanna and Yezda and his grandchildren Janghela and Murad all playing important roles.

This is an exquisi...more
Just arrived from Israel through BM.

This is the first book written by Rohinton Mistry that I've read and I really liked it.

The story is about the family of Nariman Vakeel, a 79 year old Parsi widower who suffers from Parkinson's disease. To worsen his physical health, he ends breaking his ankle, getting unable thus of getting around. Even living with his step-children, Coomy and Jal, they weren't able to take good care of their father.

By forcing the circumstances, Nariman is forced to move to th...more
aPriL loves HalLowEen
I liked this book after awhile, but initially, one of the characters, Coomy, irritated me so much I almost quit. Although the story is about a Mumbai family of Parsi's, and there are many Indian cultural-specific foods, religious customs and words mentioned, I felt this is a universal story about all affectionate, middle-class families. But on the other hand, the universality reminded me of the claustrophobic and eternal familial struggles of all human family life, which affect most families thr...more
Julia Mukuddem
beautiful, beautiful and again - beautiful. what an amazing book !!

'a fine balance' by the same author is also on my top list, and i'm so glad this one made it there as well.

i simply don't have enough words to explain this book ... just read it ... now ... :)
Stella  ☢FAYZ☢ Chen
A very slow novel that contain heart-felt moments and funny little devious schemes.

Thia book, as I found out through my English teacher, has deeper meaning than just family. WHY CAN'T SOMETHING JUST BE SIMPLE. WHY MUST I OVER-ANALYSE THIS?
Took me a while to get into this one -- but once I was in, it was quite a remarkable read. Mistry spins a tale about Bombay through the story of one family undergoing dramatic yet completely plausible, at times quiet, ordinary events. Mistry is not trying to wow anyone through crash-boom-bang events, yet even in its subtlety this story had a Shakespearean sense of tragedy and betrayal and loss -- not just for the family, but for a city whose beauty and vibrance was contantly underscored by corru...more
David Cerruti
Aug 31, 2014 David Cerruti rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Garima
Shelves: india, favorites
There is more to the title than first meets the eye. Is it family MATTERS? Or is it FAMILY matters? The meaning of “matters” evolves as the story progresses. Mistry discusses this, and much more, in a 51 minute interview for WAMU, on Sept. 30, 2002.

That interview was part of the book tour that, unfortunately, occurred too soon after 9-11. According to a November 3, 2002 BBC report: “Canadian author, Rohinton Mistry, has cancelled the second half of his US...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eric Wright

Mistry transports us into the life of a struggling Parsi couple in Mumbai/Bombay. It is full of pathos and realism. His language graphically conjures up the characters, a tiny apartment, the marital tensions, the feelings of two young boys, the stresses of trying to cope with too little money and a naive employer, and particularly the deterioration in the health of the grandfather.

Nariman Vakeel is a 79 year old widower forces by circumstances and parents to reject his true love and marry withi...more
I read this book in just 2 days, it was so engrossing. Not as good as A Fine Balance, but still an illuminating look into the lives of Indians living a typical middle class life. Apart from the Indian focus, I just loved the detailed exploration of what it feels like to guide a close relative to death in your home, especially from the points of view of the two boys aged 9 and 12 (I think). The struggle to not resent a parent or in-law for needing care and suddenly being so helpless was presented...more
I want to like this book. I remember reading A Fine Balance and being moved by it. I thought it was somewhat melodramatic and that while some of the characters were interesting, many seemed one dimensional, particularly the "bad" guys. Both things feel particularly true about this book so far.

Nariman is the aging patriarch of the family, Jal and Coomy's step father. He's salt of the earth. You get that from the first page. And Jal and Coomy are not nice. Ungrateful wretches. When Nariman, who h...more
Sonia Gomes
Jun 16, 2012 Sonia Gomes rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: fantastic, india
This is an exquisite book; here Mistry spins a tale of a Parsi family, which can be applicable to any family anywhere. When Nariman Vakeel has a fall, Jal and Coomy, his step children, just send their father to their half sister Roxanne, despite the fact that Roxanne has a small apartment, despite the fact that they do love their sister Roxanne a great deal. The siblings do not want their father, so they plot and plan to keep Nariman Vakil at Roxanne’s house for a long time; sadly a terrible acc...more
Paul Secor
Until recently, if someone had said to me that people and families can be very similar, no matter what the country or culture, I would have listened, filed that idea away, and forgotten about it. Now, having read Family Matters, I've come to understand and feel the truth of that notion. Rohinton Mistry's words and the characters he created have led to me to that understanding and feeling. The notion is a seemingly simple one, but one that's important and one that I hope stays with me.

In my ignor...more
Diane S.
The one thing that is common to all cultures is the difficulties in taking care of our aged parents or other family members. So from the beginning this story really hit home, basically had something similar to this happen in my husband's family, although I felt this was a bit exaggerated. The characters were all well drawn, even the characters on the sidelines were interesting and the two young boys won my heart. It definitely showed the effects and strain on everyone in the family and even when...more
This is a big fat Dickensian story set in India. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost my taste for big fat Dickensian stories. I enjoyed the book, but not excessively. What I found most interesting was the insight into family life, attitudes and restrictions. And how much American pop culture has infiltrated India. It was interesting to see how they hopped back and forth between English and various Indian languages. The book would have benefited from a glossary, though. If I had known what some of...more
Like any relationship, family takes a lot of work and and naturing. Sometimes it's loving, sometimes it's dysfunctional. But, good or bad, you only have one family.

Family Matters tells a story of one middle-class family in Mumbai (Bombay), India. The grandfather, Nariman, suffers from Parkinson's disease. His two step-children, Coomy and Jal, live with him and are their caretakers. Roxana, Nariman's real daughter, lives a happy life with her husband, Yezad, and her two children, Murad and Jehang...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Rohinton Mistry takes us right into the life of a family in this book, a family with all its
conflicts, its misunderstandings, its jealousies, and unexpected moments of redeeming love. India, his setting, seems to make
everything feel bigger and more important, both hopeless and hopeful.

Nariman is an old man who has experienced much sadness and pain in his life. He lives with his stepchildren, Jal
and Coomy, who try without much success to protect him from the world. His natural daughter, Roxa...more
Oct 25, 2009 notgettingenough rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody interested in real India
Shelves: indian
Some years ago I found myself collecting a rather appalling statistic. Women in India who are burned to death by their husbands, often in collusion with the mother of the husband. The preferred method is to douse the wife in petrol and then set alight. It generally does the trick, though unfortunately sometimes one ends up with a dreadfully disfigured wife who survives.

The real eye-opening thing about this practice is that it is a middle-class commonplace. The woman burned to death may well have...more
Rohinton Mistry’s Family Matters, set in modern day Bombay, is a big, sprawling, panoramic novel that’s absolutely Dickensian in scope and detail. It’s rich and it’s human and, like all things human, it’s flawed...but just a little, and one gets the idea that somehow, its flaws only serve to make it a better book.

The family that matters, or the family whose matters Mistry is going to probe, is a family of Parsis, headed by the aging former professor, Nariman Vakeel. Parkinson’s disease now troub...more
This is a brilliant exploration about the various ways that family does indeed matter. The organizing narrative thread is the daily care needed by an elderly father with Parkinson’s Disease. The unmarried step-daughter has the time and sufficiently large apartment to provide that care, but is prevented by her consuming resentment and half buried rage for this man. The daughter has the desire and devotion, but is limited to a tiny apartment already too small for her young family and is barely sur...more
I love India. I absolutely love India. Every facet of it. If reincarnation exists, then there is something in my soul that says this very pale creature born and raised in the Midwest, in another life lived in India. Have I ever been to India? God, no! I'm poor. I spend all my money on books. Though someday, I do hope to travel there. Everyone has dreams.

Mistry delves into a cultural/familial debacle right from the start of this book, who cares for an ailing parent? In modern Bombay, as many Asia...more
Janet Leszl
Set in India, this novel’s primary focus is on an elderly man who’s nearing the end of his days and how his step children and his daughter and her family deal with their relationships with him and each other.

The process of dying, the eventual outcome and its aftermath bring out the very best and the very worst in families. It happens all the time and this novel illustrated so many of the aspects which are played out in family after family. Commonly, some resort to bickering, revulsion over vit...more
Kevin Argus
Having read and loved Mistry's 'A Fine Balance', I was then also gifted 'Family Matters' by the same friend who had given me the former.

Family Matters is quite different. It focuses on the nuences of a family, with complexity and challenges related to matters of inheritance, caring for an infirm older parent, and doing their best to cope with the cost of living. While I found the early chapters slow in the development of meaingful relationships, this endeavour by the author to introduce the app...more
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Rohinton Mistry is considered to be one of the foremost authors of Indian heritage writing in English. Residing in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Mistry belongs to the Parsi Zoroastrian religious minority.

Mistry’s first novel, Such a Long Journey (1991), brought him national and international recognition. Mistry’s subsequent novels have achieved the same level of recognition as his first. His second n...more
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“Everyone underestimates their own life. Funny thing is, in the end, all our stories...they're the same. In fact, no matter where you go in the world, there is only one important story: of youth, loss and yearning for redemption. So we tell the same story, over and over. Only the details are different. ” 108 likes
“What folly made young people, even those in middle age, think they were immortal? How much better, their lives, if they could remember the end. Carrying your death with you every day would make it hard to waste time on unkindness and anger and bitterness, on anything petty. That was the secret: remembering your dying time, in order to keep the stupid and the ugly out of your living time.” 13 likes
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