When Mohammed Ahmad Ally dies, his family gathers for the religious rites and burial and recall the troubled relationship they had with him.
He had lived by tradition and by his deeply held Islamic views, and his children, as he always said, were there to make him proud.
He had been a dominant and domineering figure in their lives, had arranged the marriage of his elder daughter, Maryam, to the son of a good friend; had sent his only boy, Khalil. off to New York to study law; and had disowned his younger daughter, Dee, for marrying a Hindu.
Even as friends and business colleagues remember Ally as kind and generous, his children and sister-in-law Hamida, his late wife's youngest sister, remember a different man, a man who had been authoritarian and bigoted. The family open up to each other and, in the process, resolve issues that had been seething below the surface of their own relationships with each other.
Ally's death becomes a transformative event that leads them to renew their familial ties.
A Death in the Family is published in the UK by Cutting Edge Press.
Taking place over only a few days, A Death in the Family is an exploration of a grieving family's inner thoughts. Mohammed Ahmad Ally is dead and his children gather together in the family home to give him the funeral that a man who is so respected within the community deserves.
Ally's only wish for his children was that they should make him proud, it didn't occur to him that this younger generation may want different things from life. His traditional views, his Islamic faith were the driving force in his life, his children were expected to please him, to live their lives in his shadow ... to make him proud.
As the family gather together, not just his three children; Maryam, Khalil and Dee, but also his sister-in-law and brother-in-law, it becomes clear that Ally was a man who caused much sadness and distress throughout his life. His eldest daughter Maryam was bright, with dreams of being a teacher until a wealthy family offered marriage to their youngest son. Khalil and Dee have made their own lives across the ocean in New York, but their choices caused heartbreak for all of them. Their beautiful and vibrant mother Ayesha died when Dee was just a small baby, her sisters and brother have always laid the blame for her death at Ally's door.
Ryhaan Shah takes the reader into the heart of this family, with characters who are vibrant and warm and whose grief is painful. Guyana is a wonderful setting, described so richly that the reader can almost hear the hustle and bustle, smell the food and feel the heat.
A Death in the Family is a story filled with regrets and sadness. The family look back over the years and discover so much about themselves and about their Father that they have denied for so long. Feelings are hurt, truths are spoken, lost love is found and wounds begin to heal as each character takes stock of the life that they have led so far, and makes plans for how they will make changes for the future.
Beautifully written, evocative and quite intense, A Death in the Family is a story that could raise questions for us all. It is a novel of revelation and understanding.
My thanks to Hatty from Cutting Edge Press who sent my copy for review.
Ryaan Shah was born and grew up in Guyana. She was educated there and in the United States, where she studied for a degree in journalism. For the next twenty years she traveled from the US to the UK and to the Cayman Islands, working in the field of communications and journalism. She returned to Guyana in 1997.
Her first novel, A Silent Life was published in 2005 and has been the subject of several academic presentations at Caribbean Studies conferences in North America and Europe.
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