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An Obedient Father

3.31  ·  Rating details ·  833 Ratings  ·  110 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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Paul Bryant
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Gender equality demands that I now read a series of novels about vile and depraved women, say, Isla She-Wolf of the SS or Myra Hindley or…. well there must be some more. The list of novels about vile and depraved men is as long as the arm of a person with really long arms. And here is another. Well I should not complain, I knew the subject (father rapes daughter then 20 years later tries to abuse grand-daughter) already. But I had recently read Family Life, Akhil Sharma’s excellent short novel a ...more
Samarth Bhaskar
Jun 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an easy-to-read, very difficult book. Sharma does not shy away from the ugliest, most difficult subjects but writes about them so fluidly that you find yourself going along at a steady clip, jaw dropping wider and wider. Much like the subjects of abuse in this book, the reader at times can feel like he's in an abusive relationship he just can't pull away from. That's not meant to demean or minimize actual abuse victims suffer. It's only meant to highlight how deftly Sharma captures abuse ...more
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: desi-authors, india
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dawn McCarthy
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-list-books
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
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
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
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Sharma killed a brilliant story.
Without being prejudice, I must say that this book could be better if the author paid a little more attention to his narration style.

Sharma made it unnecessary long (almost 300 pages) and that's why it became boring. Really, you find the next page more tedious than the previous one.

The characterization is nice. Story changes POV to have a better look inside characters and because of this you have a better view of character's emotion and his/her mental state. T
This is the Shiva-like story of sin and complacency. Each leads to the other. A long ago sin invades those who were involved, and causes complacency which engenders more sin. The cycle continues throughout the book.

This is a book about family relationships, about politics, and most interestingly, about India as it transitions from its traditional self to a new world of money, business, and education. In some ways, the original sin was the British occupation of the country, which left the vestige
Jul 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 27, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  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
Steuart Osha
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How the narrator notices himself enjoying swinging his arms, or considering telling little lies, or, with the same candor, drinking compulsively, or committing the grossest meanness, is funny, and then devastating. Ram's efforts at redemption towards the end of the story are accomplished by way of his own degradation at the hands of his increasingly unhinged daughter--a perverse catharsis that never vindicates her. The outer-tier story of vocational corruption and betrayal, is dense, and harder ...more
This is a very well written book, but the author puts the reader in a place where they don't want to be, inside the mid of a pedophile. Most of the book is told form his point of view, he collects bribes for a living, and is hiding from the fact that he molested his daughter as a young girl. Occasionally the story switches and is told from his daughters point of view, which I found quite disconcerting.

There is also a backstory of corruption in India's political system, and how the main characte
Nov 23, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 18, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Eveline Chao
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When books are really good, as this one was, it's hard for me to think of anything to say about them - it's always so much easier to criticize, haha. 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! It's worth it though.
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
can't put it down - so good
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were parts that the writing was good n raw and powerful. I found the political shenanigans got too convoluted. The conclusion seems rather inconclusive
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter Bridgford
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Pen/Hemingway Award winning book deals with a very harsh topic. While I enjoyed Akhil Sharma's mastery of the language and his writing style and learned a lot about Indian history and culture (Admittedly, I am woefully ignorant of both!), the subject matter was hard to get through. That being said, the book is a very good read - just not an uplifting story that makes you happy to read. The debate about villains and forgiveness and absolution is a great one to have, and this book had me deep ...more
Rishav Agarwal
An Arvind Adiga meets Rohinton Mistry kinda book, light read with heavy subject matter. This one is about an extremely dysfunctional Indian family as most go and where corruption and politics are submerged in the cacophony of everyday life.
Bill Berger
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extraordinary Indian novel about a father-daughter-granddaughter dealing with a dark past in Delhi. The usual Indian politics and corruption are interspersed with the troubled interplay between the family members. Extremely well written, well paced and highly recommended
Jennifer Martin
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As another reviewer mentioned - easy to read but very difficult story. Well written but deeply troubling.

Struggled to reach at pg 21.. thennnnn just couldn't read any further.. shut and close.

Well, i wanted to read some indian authors writing. But I guess i picked a wrong book
Mar 03, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india-pakistan
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
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story takes place in India in the 1990s. Some real people are discussed, the times are not imaginary, but the characters are.

Ram Karan is a money man for Mr. Gupta, a superior in the education department. A junior officer in the physical education department of the Delhi school system, Ram takes bribes from principals of schools and others for whom he can presumably do some good. It is the way it is done. People expect to have to bribe to get things done. So here we get part of a picture of
Oct 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Akhil Sharma's aptly titled "An Obedient Father" is a little gem of a book that could have been important, had it had one thing in it. Guilt. Either as a word in the book or as a thought in the lead's head. I'm not saying it doesn't have it, but I'm not particularly sure it has it.

I often thought about guilt as I read through the book and how it might just be a thing that people feel only when they see their actions through the eyes of the community around them, and that guilt doesn't warrant m
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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...