Saturday, October 27, 2012

Family Matters... "Kith and Kin – Chronicles of a Clan" – A book review

If a novel is about one’s family, it can be an interesting one to write about. Semi-autobiographical, yes, but painting pictures with words that are almost true to life can be tedious still what with each family member’s character traits, quirks and the likes.  But what if you were writing about a fictional family, across three generations, living far and wide, yet each one somehow remains true to their roots? Tedious, yes, but doesn’t feel so when they get onto reading Sheila Kumar’s Kith and Kin – Chronicles of a Clan!

The book begins with the author introducing the large Melekat family – describing every one of the 19 characters! It is like tracing back a large family tree, more of a navigating tool to help you through the book and avoid confusion.

The elegant white rose of the town, Ammini Amma – standing tall and stoic, never letting anyone know who she really is or what she really feels is the family matriarch of the Melekat clan and runs her huge house ‘Mon Repose’ proudly. However, her children are different. While Ammini Amma remains unreadable, the author continues to spin her web of tales from the lives of her offspring’s.

The descendants of Amma, aka current Nair family, are oscillating between what they feel, what they really want and how their life really is! They struggle to keep up with the charming and elegant life their mother led. Far from perfect, their stories are marred by failed marriages, unhappy relationships, commitment phobias, treachery, loneliness, jealousy and insecurity, even bordering on dementia. On the other hand, the younger generation, i.e. the children of her children, look up to her for solace and peace whenever they find themselves in a soup. Unlike their own parents who fail to get going with the fast-changing times, the younger ones feel that their grandmother would have understood.

Having left their home town of South Malabar, the Melekats have settled across Mumbai, Bangalore and the US. However, what bind them together apart from their similar aquiline features, bouts of tantrums and their arrogant nature is their mother and their home, Mon Repos. Amma and their childhood family home are recurring themes through the book.

What really intrigues one is that there is not one chapter from the matriarch’s perspective. Everyone seems to be talking about her, cursing her maybe, but she is not the one to talk! Very deliberate, I’d say as the author stays true to Amma’s character – never a word out of line and never the one to clarify.
Some stories have unexpected endings, taking you by surprise. While stories like Ants, Colours and Passing Through, the author adapts different forms of narratives, establishing at once establishing the very trait and essence of these characters.

With Ants, she writes through the perspective of a young niece who has come visiting her aging aunts who tend to the huge house, running it smoothly, devoting their entire lives to the structure. Long widowed, they continue to live is a microcosm which seems like a tiny spec, hardly relatable or of any importance. Through Colours, the author explains that we still live in a world where superstitions hold a majority. They can decide one’s life’s path!

In Passing Through, while stranded at an alien airport, the protagonist battles her inner demons of insecurities. I think this one came the closest to grand dame Ammini Amma! And the end will surprise everyone. While I do not want to divulge much and ruin the fun, I will only say it ends at Mon Repose – French for my place of rest.

In short, the book is thoroughly enjoyable. Every story adds to the reader's experience, leaving one with an ache to know more about the Melekats. 

Bookworm Ratings: 2.5/5 booksworms


  1. Might just buy this book after reading the review.


  2. Agree with Arti... it does offer something unique to the reader , telling interlinked tales from multiple perspectives.

  3. @ Arti

    Thank you buddy! I am glad you liked this one. It is a good book. Offers yummy Mallu flavors :)

  4. @ Roshan R

    Try the book. It won't disappoint you. Many different perspectives rolled into one, this book is!