These beautiful, funny, intelligent short stories are told with such apparent simplicity. That’s Akhil Sharma’s style, honed in his two novels: An Obedient Father and the Folio prize-winning Family Life , his semi-autobiographical story of a family emigrating from India to America and then devastated by a dreadful accident, when their elder son hits his head in a swimming pool (the accident appears again in one of these stories, “Surrounded by Sleep”). Sharma’s short, declarative sentences, avoiding taking metaphorical flight, never feel mannered, or like a Carveresque moody disavowal of the possibility of saying anything. The simplicity is Sharma’s effort to get past all the temptations of falsity, of false style and ready-made ideas. His writing shines its clean light, never mercilessly or voyeuristically, on these characters winding round and round inside the muddled opacity of their lives and their thoughts. They, as well as the writer, struggle for the truth. In “The Well”, an unhappy, awkward, overweight young man, son of Indian immigrants in America, has always been “in love” with someone – at first Wonder Woman and Superman’s girlfriend, and now Betty, a blond, tennis-playing girl at work. His hungry need for Betty makes him clumsily oblivious […]