Akhil Sharma's novel "Family Life" has won the 2015 Folio Prize, which will be presented Monday night in London. The prize, worth close to $60,000, is given to a work of fiction written in English from anywhere in the world that is published in Britain during the given year.
Announcing the winner, William Fiennes, chair of the judging committee, said, "From a shortlist of which we are enormously proud, Akhil Sharma's lucid, compassionate, quietly funny account of one family's life across continents and cultures, emerged as our winner. 'Family Life' is a masterful novel of distilled complexity: about catastrophe and survival; attachment and independence; the tension between selfishness and responsibility. We loved its deceptive simplicity and rare warmth. More than a decade in the writing, this is a work of art that expands with each re-reading and a novel that will endure."
Other books on the shortlist were "Outline" by Rachel Cusk of Britain; two books by Americans, "10:04" by Ben Lerner and "Dept. of Speculation" by Jenny Offill; Kenyan writer Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor's novel, "Dust"; "How to Be Both" by Scottish writer Ali Smith; "All My Puny Sorrows" by Canadian author Miriam Toews; and "Nora Webster" by Colm Tóibín of Ireland.
Sharma was born in India and raised in America; he's an assistant professor at Rutgers-Newark in New Jersey. "Family Life" draws on Sharma's experience of immigrating to the U.S. when he was a boy.
Writing the novel took 12 1/2 years, Sharma told the Guardian when it was published. "I can't believe how bad that time was. I was such a different person when I began writing it that I feel as if I've shattered my youth on this book... Family Life is definitely an immigrant novel, and one of its subjects is the Indian community in America of which I am tremendously grateful to be a part."