‘Family Matters’ follows the story of Nariman, an aged man who is beset by parkinsons and the indifference of his step-children, whose mind slowly unravels as the novel progresses and whose condition acts as a catalyst for change, both good and bad, to those around him. Whilst Nariman’s parkinsons is the catalyst behind the changes which take place in the lives of the characters, the focus is on family dynamics rather than the condition itself, indeed for most of the novel Nariman is relegated to the periphery, a lachrymose figure whose pain and isolation seeps into the lives of those around him. His daughter, Roxana, ends up caring for him as her husband, Yezad, becomes increasingly desperate and distraught by the responsibility of providing for Neriman. In the meantime, Neriman’s step-children, Jal and Coomy, are wracked with guilt for abandoning him at the door of Roxana and Yezad.
As with most of Mistry’s stories, there is a great deal if more ambiguity surrounding the characters and their actions-shades of grey rather than black and white-as Mistry refuses to provide easy answers to the various dilemmas which the characters find themselves in. So Yezas’s initial disdain and selfishness is transformed into a feeling of love and compassion and spirituality which eventually transforms into a bigotry which is so at odds with his initial character, so his son Jehangir develops a sense of empathy for his grandfather and his step-daughter Coomy descends even deeper into the sense of bitterness which has permeated her outlook on life. There are also a set of secondary characters in the novel, from the eccentric but kindly Mr Kapur, to the pathetic Villie and the ghost of Neriman’s young love Lucy, who add further depth to the main characters and the story.
”Family Matters’ is a profound and brilliant exploration of old age, of family dynamics and of life in an Bombay which is beset by constant flux and change, as well as the Parsi community which exists there and which feels like it is slowly losing its identity.