“Family Matters” by Rohinton Mistry: A Profound Exploration of Family, Duty, and Identity

Published in 2002, “Family Matters” by Rohinton Mistry is a poignant and deeply moving novel that delves into the complexities of family relationships, duty, and the search for identity in the bustling metropolis of Mumbai. In this extensive exploration, we delve into the heart of “Family Matters,” unraveling its themes, characters, and the profound impact it has had on readers around the world.

Plot Summary:

Set in the bustling city of Mumbai, “Family Matters” follows the lives of the Kapur family as they navigate the challenges of aging, illness, and the shifting dynamics of modern Indian society. At the center of the narrative is Nariman Vakeel, an aging patriarch who finds himself increasingly dependent on his stepchildren, Coomy and Jal, after suffering a debilitating fall.

As Nariman’s health deteriorates, tensions simmer within the Kapur household, with Coomy and Jal struggling to balance their responsibilities towards their stepfather with their own desires and ambitions. Meanwhile, Nariman’s biological daughter, Roxana, and her husband, Yezad, grapple with their own challenges, from financial difficulties to the complexities of raising a family in a rapidly changing world.

As the novel unfolds, Mistry skillfully weaves together multiple narrative threads, exploring the intricacies of familial relationships, the weight of duty and obligation, and the enduring power of love and forgiveness.

Themes and Motifs:

“Family Matters” explores a wide range of themes and motifs, including:

  1. Family Dynamics: At its core, the novel is a profound meditation on the complexities of family relationships, from the bonds of love and loyalty to the tensions and conflicts that arise when duty and obligation clash with individual desires. Mistry delves into the intricacies of the Kapur family, capturing the joys, sorrows, and struggles that define their lives.
  2. Aging and Illness: Central to the narrative is Nariman’s struggle with aging and illness, as he grapples with the loss of independence and the erosion of his physical and mental faculties. Mistry offers a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of the challenges faced by the elderly, exploring the ways in which illness and infirmity impact not only the individual but also their loved ones.
  3. Identity and Belonging: Throughout the novel, characters wrestle with questions of identity and belonging, as they navigate the complexities of their cultural and social milieu. From Roxana’s conflicted feelings about her mixed heritage to Yezad’s search for meaning and purpose in a rapidly changing world, “Family Matters” explores the ways in which identity is shaped by family, culture, and the passage of time.
  4. Social Realism: Mistry paints a vivid and evocative portrait of Mumbai, capturing the sights, sounds, and smells of the bustling metropolis with remarkable precision. Against the backdrop of India’s economic and social transformation, “Family Matters” offers a poignant reflection on the complexities of urban life, from the stark divides between rich and poor to the enduring resilience of the human spirit.
  5. Guilt and Redemption: Throughout the novel, characters grapple with feelings of guilt and remorse, stemming from past mistakes and regrets. Mistry explores the ways in which guilt shapes the characters’ actions and decisions, ultimately leading them on a journey towards redemption and forgiveness.

Character Development:

Mistry’s characters are richly drawn and multi-dimensional, each grappling with their own hopes, fears, and insecurities. From the stoic and dignified Nariman to the pragmatic and resourceful Roxana, the novel’s cast of characters is as diverse as the city they inhabit, their journeys intersecting in unexpected and poignant ways.

Narrative Style and Structure:

“Family Matters” is narrated in Mistry’s trademark style, with lyrical prose and meticulous attention to detail. The novel unfolds at a leisurely pace, allowing readers to savor the richness of Mistry’s storytelling and immerse themselves in the lives of the Kapur family. Mistry’s narrative structure is non-linear, with the story unfolding through a series of flashbacks and reminiscences, offering readers a multi-faceted view of the characters’ lives and experiences.

Critical Reception:

“Family Matters” received widespread critical acclaim upon its release, with critics praising Mistry’s deft characterization, evocative prose, and insightful exploration of complex themes. The novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Kiriyama Prize for Fiction, cementing Mistry’s reputation as one of the preeminent voices in contemporary Indian literature.


In “Family Matters,” Rohinton Mistry has crafted a poignant and deeply affecting portrait of family, duty, and identity in contemporary India. Through its richly drawn characters, evocative prose, and profound exploration of themes such as aging, illness, and the bonds of love, the novel offers readers a powerful meditation on the human condition. As Mistry skillfully navigates the complexities of family relationships and the challenges of urban life, he invites readers to reflect on the universal truths that bind us all together, reminding us of the enduring power of love, forgiveness, and the ties that bind us to one another.

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