Family Life by Akhil Sharma
This novel tells the story of a young boy called Ajay whose world is transformed when his older brother suffers a severe brain injury. Akhil Sharma writes beautifully about how Ajay tries to make sense of what has happened to his brother and the impact it has on his family.
As is typical of children of Ajay’s age, we see how ‘magical thinking’ leads him to imagine that superheroes can help his brother and that a fairytale happy ending will be the reward for his family’s suffering. But as he matures, Ajay’s understanding and insight into his brother’s situation increases and he sees no sign of someone coming to save the day.
As part of a religious family, we also see how Ajay prays and takes comfort from the nightly conversations he has with God lying under his blanket, but as he starts to ask God difficult questions such as ‘what was the reason for this?’ and not getting a happy answer, he loses the hope that perhaps his brother’s accident was just a temporary test for his family and that he will get his beloved brother back.
We see Ajay’s anger unfold; we see his sadness at missing his brother; we see his frustration, his boredom, his disgust at what his brother looks like and guilt. Guilt at feeling disgusted and guilt about being ok when his brother is not.
As Ajay reaches adolescence we see how he tries to relate to other children about his unusual life at home. Lies don’t help but reality is too much. All this time his parents are coping in their own ways as Ajay tries to help them as well as himself.
This book shines a light on how brain injury can impact on a family and how siblings, parents, extended family and the wider community are all affected in different ways. It is a book of warmth, love, and humour and shows how people do struggle but also have remarkable strength, love and commitment when a loved one is affected by brain injury.
This is a beautifully written, award winning book about a young boy in extraordinary circumstances that would be enjoyed by many and certainly of interest to professionals working with families affected by brain injury.
By Dr Sarah Gillanders
Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist