Sulaman, Jackie, Mia and Lana are brought up by a domineering mother and retreating father in Lahore, India. They escape through careers and marriage, each of them defying the strictures of their family and society – but find they are unable to leave the past totally behind. We follow the family through to their children in a journey of trying to move on, which proves harder than it seems.
I think this is probably one of the books my mother would annoyingly tell me I am too young for. And possibly after a week or so of sulking, internally protesting my maturity and thus proving it’s absence, I might agree.
I really enjoyed learning more about Indian culture, particularly in the childhood section of the book, exploring customs and expectations and viewing what family life might be like from the inside. And then seeing both English and American culture and life from the outside was interesting too: the two sons settle as doctors away from home.
We explore the journey of the family from East to West, tradition to modernity, through the four siblings first person narrative and memories. Sulaman and Jackie’s separate personalities and stories were masterfully told: their personalities as they formed and developed through the decades of their lives were intriguing and touching, the boys within the men always evident.
I was sad not to hear more about Mae and Lana: whose sections were shorter than the boys and less involved, but it was was interesting too to be aware of all the perspectives of the family group: each sibling is deeply concerned with the others and their various overlapping and contrasting thoughts reveal a wide picture – their thoughts of each other reveal intricacies we would otherwise be unaware of.
I particularly enjoyed the various perspectives of their mother through her different ages, moods and ideas. Family dynamic was explored widely, not only in the immediate family but in those that the siblings go on to create for themselves – it seems each of them is determined to create something that they did not have.
But despite all this… I found myself getting a bit bored about two thirds of the way through. Though ostensibly there is a kind of plot structure: we follow the siblings as they make their way home to attend two funerals and learn of their life through their reminiscence, I found that it didn’t drive things forward enough.
I wasn’t quite sure where things were going, whether I was to expect something earth-shattering to happen or whether it was simply going to continue. I was confused by the scene selections as to what story was actually being told. By the end, though, things tightened together again and some satisfactory conclusions were reached.
The Good Children was a rich journey into perspectives and lives and I really enjoyed delving into the varied experiences and characters, family and ageing, relationships and ideas… but I did get a little bit bored.
Thanks bookbridgr for the review copy.