Em and the Big Hoom | Book Review

The book I’m going to review today is Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto.

I have not written a book review in so long. My previous blog (Yes, I’ve had several blogs that I ground into obscurity every time I emerge from a fresh bout of writer’s block.) was to consist primarily of book reviews and that was its undoing, I think. I read a series of books which overwhelmed me and I just did not know how to review them without spoiling them and without sounding repetitive about how much I love them and then I just stopped reviewing books, and panicked at the thought of reviewing one. This particular doozy took me a full 3 days to write to my satisfaction, and it’s still halting in parts… I’m just going to go ahead and post before I change my mind. In the future, may be I’ll do wrap-ups in the style of booktubers to talk about what I’ve been reading briefly. 

</end typical long winded rant>

In my last post, I had said that I was currently reading this book and that I loved it so far. News Update: I do love it!

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you guys. This is one of the best books I’ve read by an Indian author. Not that I’ve read too many books by Indian authors, but I’m remedying that now.

Anyway, this is also the best book I’ve read representing somebody with a mental illness after The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. (If you haven’t read it yet, why the hell not?! Go go go. Read it right now. My blog isn’t a quarter as interesting)

I’m not saying that the books are similar; they aren’t—at all— (For starters, they deal with different mental illnesses!) but this book is reminiscent of that one in its kind and balanced approach, which doesn’t sugar-coat the toll mental illness may take on the affected person, and their family, but that also doesn’t demonise the person. In fact, Pinto probably faced a greater challenge doing this because this book wasn’t from the perspective of the person with the mental illness, Imelda Mendes, ‘Em’ to her children, ‘Beloved’ to her husband, but that of her son, from the time he is around 10 years old, to when he is in his early 20’s.

The book consists entirely of remembered conversations between the boy and his family, letters and journal entries written by his mother and his actual thoughts about these which makes for interesting changes in voice throughout the book. I liked that.

It is written retrospectively, and has a hazy, reminiscing quality to it, but at the same time, it truly describes the narrator’s dominant feelings of pity, fear and frustration in equal measure, as well as the suffering he saw his mother go through. In the true style of reminisces, it is written in a non-linear fashion, each story, each incident, weaving together seamlessly, giving an actual glimpse into the claustrophobic one-bedroom house in sweltering 1980’s Mumbai.

My favourite character in the book is the titular Big Hoom, the father, the husband, the family’s rock. He’s a little two-dimensional but reading about him made me feel warm inside.

This book is so honest and uncensored, it broke my heart. The ending soothed and moved me at the same time. I do so love a book that is set in India but that isn’t about India or about living in India… if that makes sense. I also love books about living in India, but I love these more. I actually do so love a well-written book about anything set anywhere, to be honest.

I don’t even know why I need to say this at this point, but I highly recommend this book. Read it. And yes, you can thank me in advance. 😛

Hoot.

–Sin

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