Author: Jerry Pinto
Goodreads blurb: In a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen in Mahim, Bombay, through the last decades of the twentieth century, lived four love-battered Mendeses: mother, father, son and daughter. Between Em, the mother, driven frequently to hospital after her failed suicide attempts, and The Big Hoom, the father, trying to hold things together as best he could, they tried to be a family.
Given that I have always been more of a ‘book skimmer’ rather than a ‘book reader’ all my life, my preferred mode of reading has always been about quickly skimming through the lines of the book avoiding all the conjunctions, the, and, an, and such like. This afforded me the luxury of quickly gaining the sum and substance of whatever I was reading while ensuring that I get an overall feel of whatever it was that I was reading. However, there have been quite a few books in my life when I gave up this skimming habit of mine and actually read the book and all the words in their entirety. These are books that I allowed to sink myself into quite deeply and thoroughly experience them. Em and The Big Hoom was one such book that I actually ‘read’ in a long time.
An extremely unconventional plot in that it deals primarily with the chronicling of a mother’s depressed state of mind which drives her to try to commit suicide more than once, her reminiscing of her childhood and youth, her memories of the early days of marriage, her wisecracking realization of her bipolar disorder, and more. Narrated by the son (who funnily enough doesn’t even have a name in the book, which I only realized after I finished it), the book takes readers on a journey through Em’s life and the various stages in her depression.
While at the outset, this may seem like an extremely depressing (pun unintended) and serious subject, the author deals with it in an extremely adroit fashion and manages to keep readers engaged through the entire book without getting bored with the proceedings. The wry tongue-in-cheek humor laced character of Em, her whimsical way of looking at life in general, some of the questions and dilemmas that she puts forth to her children, ensure that the 200 odd pages of this book keep us engaged throughout.
Jerry Pinto’s penchant for black humor is clearly illustrated by this paragraph – “Outside his storefront, the undertaker had a sign: ‘We can take your dead body, anywhere, anytime, anyplace.’ Visually, this was represented by an aeroplane with a coffin dangling from it. Later, the undertaker would become something of a minor celebrity for his signboards. ‘When you drop dead, drop in,’ one would say. The next one said, ‘Mr Smoker, you’re the next one to come coffin in.’ This was followed by ‘We’re the last to let you down.’ And then would come the strange ‘Grave problems resurrected here.’ ” For a book that is inherently dealing with an extremely serious and poignant set of characters and circumstances, there are more than a few occassions in the book where the author forces an inadvertent and unconscious smile on readers’ faces, and that speaks a lot for the ‘hold’ that he has on the readers’ emotions.
All in all, this is a sure shot read for all lovers of literary fiction, and if you are looking for a good unconventional book to read, this is it without a shadow of a doubt.
|Name||Em and The Big Hoom|
|Publisher||Aleph Book Company|