Family Matters (novel)
The novel is set in the city of Mumbai, where Mistry was born and grew up, and tells the story of a middle-class Parsi family living through a domestic crisis. Through one family, Mistry conveys everything from the dilemmas among India's Parsis, Persian-descended Zoroastrians, to the wider concerns of corruption and communalism. Mistry writes in simple language, using a lot of dialogue.
Some of the action takes place in Chateau Felicity, a flat inhabited by a 79-year-old, Parkinson's-stricken Nariman, who is the decaying patriarch and a widower with a small, discordant family consisting of his two middle-aged step children: Coomy (bitter and domineering) and Jal (mild-mannered and subservient). When Nariman's sickness is compounded by a broken ankle, Coomy's harshness reaches its summit. She plots to turn his round-the-clock care over to Roxana, her sweet-tempered sister and Nariman's real daughter and that's where the problems start.
Roxana, who lives a contented life with Yezad and her two children (Murad and Jehangir) in a small flat at Pleasant Villa takes up the care of Nariman like a dutiful daughter, but the inclusion of a new member in an already stuffed house soon becomes evidently painful, both physically and emotionally for Roxana's family. As loathing for Nariman's sickness increases and finances of the already strained household go bust, inundated by the ever increasing financial worries, Yezad pushes himself into a scheme of deception involving Vikram Kapur (his eccentric and sometimes exasperating employer at Bombay Sporting Goods Emporium).
Two terrible incidents occur, which turn the plot and the lives of the characters topsy-turvy.
The first few pages tell of Nariman's subjection to increasing decay in physical health and stinging insults (revolving around his cost of medicine, lack of space and privacy, the daily routine of bedpans and urinals, sponge baths and bedsores) from his stepdaughter.
Very soon, the focus shifts to Roxana's household. With Nariman's inclusion, however, deterioration and decay creep into it. As Yezad comes to centre stage for the following part of the book, the author explores the problems faced by an average middle-class family. Financial problems lure him and Jehangir towards greed and money.
The subplot of the book, which involves Yezad hatching a plan to dethrone his employer, is a huge slap on the faces of the corrupt Shiv Sainiks. This subplot acts as the turning point in the main story. The book contains many details of the Parsis' practices, rituals, intolerances, and the concerns of native Parsis.
In the epilogue, the youngest of all characters, Jehangir, becomes the narrator, describing the metamorphosis that religion, age, death, and wealth bring to his family.
- Review of Family Matters by Sonia Chopra for Curled Up With a Good Book (a book review website), dated 2002