Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review - Kith and Kin - chronicles of a clan by Sheila Kumar

From the book cover: Wimpy men, whimsical women, people trapped in their own time zones, cuckolding wives... Meet the Melekats. They are an inimitable lot!

Theses are slice-of-life stories about an old Nair family from south Malabar in Kerala. The Melekat mosaic includes Ammini Amma, the matriarch of the family, and her large brood of offspring and descendants. A wannabe journalist in search of the perfect story, a girl in search of a husband, a woman in search of a reason - any reason - to leave her husband...each character arouses curiosity. 

There is love, laughter, betrayal, hurt, anger, meetings, partings, and even a chatty ghost, in this fluid and engaging narrative. 

My thoughts: A wide variety of interesting and intriguing characters is what makes up the gist of Kith and Kin, as the name indicates. When I started reading, I couldn't help but compare the stories to that of Anita Nair and Kamala Das, some of my favorite writers, primarily because of the setting in Kerala, which is home for me. But that was where the resemblance ended. Sheila has brought in her own distinctive voice and narrative to the story while breathing life into her characters. 

Though the book is a novel, the chapters read like short stories on its own, each one dealing with a different theme. There were quite a lot of characters who are all related and once you get a better grasp of who is who, the story progresses along smoothly. I loved the characters of Melekat Ammini Amma, the matriarch, Suvarna, Seema and Sindhu, her granddaughters, Sumant, Suvarna's childhood friend to name a few. 

Reading the book was like taking a trip back home. Yes, it evokes a sense of nostalgia as you go along with the characters in their journey. The book is well written and edited, with impeccable English. I had to pick up my dictionary quite a few times, and this is certainly a good thing if it helps you in learning new words. There are so many topics that the author has tried to cover including infidelity, complex human emotions and its vulnerabilities, marriage and love. I also loved the title of each chapter which gives a thoughtful preview of what is to be expected from the coming story.

At two hundred odd pages, the book is a light read and I finished it over a couple of days, relishing each one of the stories. Read this one not just to get a peek into the Melekat family, but to dwell into some of the darker emotions and stories that we keep hidden, not daring to voice them out aloud. 

The book has been sent to me by the author in exchange of an honest review. All the views expressed here are my own. 


  1. Nicely done review, thanks for sharing!

  2. Sounds nice, Ammu...
    Reminds me, vaguely, of God of Small Things.
    Or maybe I'm just obsessed with that book :P

    1. Thanks Love! Reminds me to re-read God of Small Things. High time I did that :)

  3. Quite an honest review and frank appraisal. The Review makes one desire to read the book for whatever it is worth. It is always interesting to read about human relations and emotions, because human nature is always the same whether it is in Kerala or Himachal Pradesh. Good crisp review.

    1. Thanks so much, Mr Parsa. Give it a read, I think you will find it just as interesting.


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