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April 26, 2011

Book Review - 23 : Family Values



Author: Abha Dawesar
Publisher: Penguin India


This saga of a Delhi family seen through the eyes of a young boy has all the expected passions - the rivalries, the betrayals, the hatreds and the odd moments of loyalty. The silent, observant boy notes his grandfather's consistent meanness to his sons and his daughters; he watches his uncle's greed and avariciousness, his aunt's resigned despair, his cousin's determined self-destruction. But the boy and his parents have created their small oasis of grace; amid the plywood and plastic of their mean surroundings are love, generosity and respect.

Family Values deliver some real, hard hitting notes about the problems pervading in the Indian society. Written from a point of view of a child who lives in an almost claustrophobic part-home, part-dispensary place, it exposes a lot of deceptive activities in the Indian society and administrative services. However, it is too long and take its own sweet time to unwind itself. In the end, what you get are some unpleasant emotions but too mis-mashed to enjoy them completely.

No character has a name to it. They are all given nicknames like Psoriasis, Paget, Sugar Mills, Six fingers, poop, Pariah and Flunkie Junkie. Even the city and street names are kept anonymous. This may be unsettling for a few readers as it takes time to place who-is-who in the story and start relating to them. Interspersed with the narrative are some interesting plot points - missing children in vicinity of a cannibalistic person ala Nithari case, multiple organ theft, arms-deal scandal, Jessical Lal murder style killing and kidnapping of an industrialist kid from his school ala Adobe CEO's son case. All these incidents, taken from the real-life cases, do provide some shock value but are hardly convincing because there are too many convenient coincidences merged with the boy's family. Moreover, they are written with a journalistic, almost exploitative sense without paying any adherence to the time period in which they have occur.

The tone of the novel is monotonous, almost prose style. It is dry and humour-less in parts, unconvincing in certain portions and likely to make you fidgety. There are too many portions alluding to SHIT - describing in detail about the shape, size, colour, odour of it. You do feel nauseated after a while with all this vivid description. In my case, i started skipping through the lines as the author started his customary half page description to it. Even then, it took me a long time, multiple sittings and lot of patience to finish this one.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Abha Dawesar's, Family Values. Not as shockingly engaging nor emotionally compelling as the author's previous efforts, it is a done-and-dusted kind of book which won't stay in your mind much after you are through with it. Read it if you must, but barge yourself with tons of patience first.

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