A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma [in Library Journal]
Badly behaved Indian and Indian American men claim the spotlight in Sharma’s first story collection, yet moments of unexpected humor and pathos save at least some of the men from utter disdain. In “Cosmopolitan,” a recently single older man studies women’s magazines to become a better partner; he also improvises from 1,001 Polish Jokes at parties, in which “Poles became Sikhs.” In “Surrounded by Sleep,” Sharma reprises tragic autobiographical details from his novel, Family Life, about the devastating consequences of a pool accident on an immigrant family.
A distant relative disappoints the family that raised him in “We Didn’t Like Him,” a graduate student frequents prostitutes in the titular story, a father initiates murder in “Are You Happy?,” and a man impregnates an unattainable woman in “The Well.” Arranged marriage inspires a death threat in “A Heart Is Such a Heavy Thing” and unequal love in “If You Sing Like That for Me.”
Neil Shah, with his smooth, chameleonic narration, manages to add a hint of sympathy to the bad boys in seven of the eight stories. For the single tale told from a woman’s perspective, “If You Sing,” Deepti Gupta reads empathically, with natural ease.
Verdict: Tales well told, enhanced further with voices well tuned.