The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Coming of Age Fiction is not typically a genre that I read. However, I decided to step outside my comfort zone with The Shape of Family and I’m really pleased that I did.
This isn’t a light read. Oh no. This is gut wrenching, go for the feels type read. It will bring up all of your old feelings of insecurities growing up, the family you may or may not have gotten a long with, and all the bad decisions that you may have made. It will hurt.
To say that this story gripped me is an understatement. It alternates POV every chapter, with each family member’s struggles. I just did not want to put down the book because I wanted to know what happened to each character during a certain event/time period. It starts off in the year 2007 and ends in 2016. With the Olander’s happy moments, the tragic moment which shapes the family drifting apart, and the sad moment that brings them back together again. One can say it was like the rippling of the waves on a shore, ebbing and flowing along with time.
“They seem to be happy, but I know they’re each sad about missing me. That’s the thing about pairs. Even the best of pairs don’t last forever.”
I’d like to mention that there are triggers in this book. Like self harm, rape (it wasn’t detailed just hazy remembrances on Karina’s end), attempted suicide, and emotional abuse (by Micah).
Overall, I thought it was an emotion roller coaster that kept me hooked on the story, just for the hope of a happily ever after. While I understand that this book is not a fairy tale, it does end happy compared to the subject matter. Everything gets sorted and all the demons are out in the open. So healing can happen. That’s healthy, and I felt happy for the characters that achieved that. It satisfied my emotions that’s for sure.
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
The Shape of Family
The Olander family embodies the modern American Dream in a globalized world. Jaya, the cultured daughter of an Indian diplomat and Keith, an ambitious banker from middle-class Philadelphia, meet in a London pub in 1988 and make a life together in suburban California. Their strong marriage is built on shared beliefs and love for their two children: headstrong teenager Karina and young son Prem, the light of their home.
But love and prosperity cannot protect them from sudden, unspeakable tragedy, and the family’s foundation cracks as each member struggles to seek a way forward. Jaya finds solace in spirituality. Keith wagers on his high-powered career. Karina focuses relentlessly on her future and independence. And Prem watches helplessly as his once close-knit family drifts apart.
When Karina heads off to college for a fresh start, her search for identity and belonging leads her down a dark path, forcing her and her family to reckon with the past, the secrets they’ve held and the weight of their choices.
The Shape of Family is an intimate portrayal of four individuals as they grapple with what it means to be a family and how to move from a painful past into a hopeful future. It is a profoundly moving exploration of the ways we all seek belonging—in our families, our communities and ultimately, within ourselves.
Have you read any coming of age stories? If so, which ones?