The novel is set in the city of Mumbai, where Mistry was born and grew up, and tells the story of a middle-class Parsi family living through a domestic crisis. Through one family, Mistry conveys everything from the dilemmas among India's Parsis, Persian-descended Zoroastrians, to the wider concerns of corruption and communalism. Mistry writes in simple language, using a lot of dialogue.
Some of the action takes place in Chateau Felicity, a flat inhabited by a 79-year-old, Parkinson's-stricken Nariman, who is the decaying patriarch and a widower with a small, discordant family consisting of his two middle-aged step children: Coomy (bitter and domineering) and Jal (mild-mannered and subservient). When Nariman's sickness is compounded by a broken ankle, Coomy's harshness reaches its summit. She plots to turn his round-the-clock care over to Roxana, her sweet-tempered sister and Nariman's real daughter and that's where the problems start.
Roxana, who lives a contented life with Yezad and her two children (Murad and Jehangir) in a small flat at Pleasant Villa takes up the care of Nariman like a dutiful daughter, but the inclusion of a new member in an already stuffed house soon becomes evidently painful, both physically and emotionally for Roxana's family. As loathing for Nariman's sickness increases and finances of the already strained household go bust, inundated by the ever increasing financial worries, Yezad pushes himself into a scheme of deception involving Vikram Kapur.