Family Took Shape, The


ISBN 9781770860919 | 5.25″ x 8″ | TPB | $22
ISBN 9781770861046 | EBOOK | $12.99

Category: Literary Novels





When Mira Acharya’s father dies, the challenges facing her Indo-Canadian family become that much more daunting. Ravi, her autistic older brother, requires special care but longs to be just like other children. Their mother must work full time to keep a roof over their heads and still make time to be a parent to an over-achiever and a developmentally challenged child. As much as Mira loves her mother and brother, she resents the situations in which living with them places her.

It is only when Mira is older that she realizes a truth she has been missing all along: though her family’s experience may be unusual, what holds them together – has always held them together – is universal.

Shashi Bhat’s debut novel, The Family Took Shape, is a touching, hilarious, and endearingly honest story about one unique family’s search for happiness in Canadian suburbia.

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Shortlisted for the 2014 East Coast Literary Awards Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award


The Family Took Shape has a strange and very beautiful ending, proof of Bhat’s tremendous promise. It may take a moment to get used to the general quietness of this novel. But the more time you invest, the greater the reward.”
National Post

“A refreshing break from convention … Bhat seamlessly interweaves Canadian suburban life with Indian cultural life … moving and beautifully crafted …”
The Globe and Mail

“Quietly confident … Bhat sustains a thoughtful, unvarnished presentation of the brother/sister bond through different life stages and a range of emotions … the book’s remaining two-thirds, largely about the lives of Ravi and Mira as adults, are original and emotionally fearless.”
Quill and Quire

“Quietly remarkable … Bhat infuses the book with a quiet humour that only adds to the genuine sense of family between the characters.”
The Chronicle Herald

“A valuable contribution to the Canadian immigrant experience … a rare work of literary art, a view into a world that few of us has ever experienced firsthand. Mira is a miracle, a full-fledged character who will fascinate readers.”
— Owen Sound Sun-Times

“Bhat has a gift for astute observations of common, ordinary life experiences and making these fascinating by magnifying the details to great effect … I can’t reinforce enough the refined accuracy in Bhat’s descriptions. She is especially excellent when describing socially awkward situations in such a way that immediately puts you right inside of them … This novel has made me laugh, cringe and (yes) tear up significantly … The story has stayed with me well after I had finished reading, and I now look forward to more from this writer.”
The Winnipeg Review

“A compelling narrative that tracks the heroine’s progress into adulthood, and offers a beautifully crafted window on the world of a Hindu-Canadian family overcoming adversity and keeping traditions alive in their adopted homeland.”
24 Hours

“A quiet, tender novel that finds new ways to look at potentially fraught topics like the immigrant experience and autism.”
Slightly Bookist


It was the autumn of Ravi’s eighth-grade year when he transferred from 314 to 112, rumoured to be the easiest of the normal classes, a room that housed a group of just-turned-teenagers whose mothers didn’t drop them off at the bus stop, who dated each other and smoked their cigarettes next to the No Smoking sign on school property, who applied to high school and straightened their hair and wore expensive sneakers and kissed and smoked and chewed gum and cracked wise, whom Mira avoided if she could, being only a sixth grader and inclined to carrying large books around with her. At home, not much changed. Her mother still put chicken nuggets in flasks for each of their lunches, accompanied by a pear, which she would slice and then put back together, wrapped in a napkin, zipped and locked in a Ziploc bag. The eighth graders did not carry such lunches, but it didn’t matter because Ravi ate his alone on the edge of the playground, sitting on a wooden balance beam, kicking his feet in red, fallen leaves.

The only thing that changed was that now when Ravi came home each day he put his worksheets and textbooks on the dining table next to Mira’s. Their mother eyed the papers with bare desperation. The deal with the school board was only a trial, and to avoid being placed back in the special education class, he had to stay above passing in all subjects. When he brought home his own book, The Hobbit, carried under his arm though there was room in his backpack, she counted the pages.

“There’s a test when we’re done reading it,” Ravi said.

The Hobbit,” she said, pronouncing it “hoe-bit.” “We’ll read it out loud,” she said. “It’s not impossible.” She had a half-finished English degree from a school in Karnataka. She’d read Othello once.

That night Mira lay in her bed listening to her mother and brother across the hall, opening the pages for the first time.

“An Unexpected Party,” her mother began in her sing-song accent. “Well I’m glad it starts with a party,” she reflected to Ravi. “You know how we go to parties, well, now we can imagine these hoe-bits having similar parties. And so many of our parties too are unexpected, like when Shailaja Aunty came the other day without even phoning.”

“How is Shailaja Aunty doing?” Ravi asked.

“Oh, you know, you know,” and she went on reading. “If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is … There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself
You know what a burglar is, Ravi?”

“Like the Hamburglar.”


And a few nights later, “Roast mutton? Why are these Hobbitton guys so fond of mutton?”

“Because it’s delicious!” Mira yelled from her room.

“No, it’s because they are not Hindus,” said her mother and began to giggle. Mira couldn’t remember if she’d ever heard her mother giggle. Mira got up from her bed and went over to Ravi’s room. Ravi was sitting on his bed and grinning, his subject notebook sitting next to him on the bedspread, his hands together as though he had just finishing clapping. Her mother had fitted herself roundly into Ravi’s desk chair. She held the book open with one hand, her chin tilted upward like a dramatic performer of Shakespeare. “Sorry Mira, no pictures,” she said, and giggled again. Mira rolled her eyes, lay flat on the floor, looked at the ceiling, thought about dwarves, tried to tell up from down.

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About the Author

Bhat, Shashi - has been published in numerous journals, including Threepenny Review, PRISM International, and Event Magazine; her story “Indian Cooking” was a finalist for the 2010 RBC Bronwen Wallace Writers’ Trust Award. (read more)

Books by the Author

Family Took Shape, The - Shashi Bhat
ISBN 9781770860919 | 5.25" x 8" | TPB | $22

Shortlisted for the 2014 East Coast Literary Awards Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award

A touching, hilarious, and endearingly honest story about one unique family’s search for happiness in Canadian suburbia. (read more)

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