There are some wonderful moments in Akhil Sharma's Family Life, largely in how the protagonist, Ajay, sees the world. He often has a view that is juvenile, yet insightful. These glimpses of Ajay's perspective give this novel its strength, but it hinges far too much on these occasions. The story and characters all seem to revolve around these moments in Ajay's life, and while that may be the point, it does not lend to the most enjoyable read. The novel lacked a singularity that could keep me interested. The person meant to unify the novel is unable to be much of a character, due to circumstances. Family Life is full of good glimpses, the potential for excellent short stories, but as a novel—which was the intention here—it did not gel.
There is an interview with the author in the Advance Reader's copy I read. I hope this will be included with the final product, because I do feel it gives some insight into the writer and his possible rationale in regards to crafting this novel. This is a very personal story; in fact, it very closely mirrors the author's own. I understand the author's desire to write a novel and not a memoir, but for whatever reason it seemed to me the author was distanced from the subject. He was close to Ajay—very close—but everything else seemed irrelevant to the story. Sharma could replace these characters and circumstances with others and I don't think I would notice a difference.
If you like stories about Indians or families, you may like this novel. I think the author's talented, but personally I couldn't connect with this one. The narrator was memorable, however, and that may be enough to lead me back to this author again.