Akhil Sharma’s second novel, Family Life, (some 13 years in the making) is this year’s winner of The Folio Prize for Fiction! This estimable prize is awarded to “the best English-language fiction from around the world, published in the UK during a given year. It is the first major English-language book prize open to writers from all over the world.”
In Family Live, we meet the Mishra family in Delhi in 1978, where eight-year-old Ajay and his older brother Birju play cricket in the streets, waiting for the day when their plane tickets will arrive and they and their mother can fly across the world and join their father in America. America to the Mishras is, indeed, everything they could have imagined and more: when automatic glass doors open before them, they feel that surely they must have been mistaken for somebody important. Pressing an elevator button and the elevator closing its doors and rising, they have a feeling of power at the fact that the elevator is obeying them. Life is extraordinary until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother severely brain-damaged and the other lost and virtually orphaned in a strange land. Ajay, the family’s younger son, prays to a God he envisions as Superman, longing to find his place amid the ruins of his family’s new life.
Honest, heart-wrenching and darkly comic, “Family Life” is the beautifully told story of a boy torn between duty and survival. The New York Times Book Review named it one of the 10 best books of 2014. While Sharma is happy to have won the literary prize, he stated that writing the book was painful, “like chewing stones.”