Em and The Big Hoom – Jerry Pinto – Book Review


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
Author/s Jerry Pinto
Publisher Aleph Book Company
Year published 2012
ISBN 13 9788192328027
Goodreads link Link
Flipkart link Flipkart
Amazon link Amazon

10 thoughts on “Em and The Big Hoom – Jerry Pinto – Book Review

  1. The fact that you didn’t realize till the very end that the Son didn’t have a name shows how engrossing it must have been. I have always known Jerry to be a writer to reckon for but having read his contribution/reaction to an incident in the Goa Writer’s Group had put me off about him. Will def. pick this one up, frankly I am fed up of reading only chicklits by Indian Authors

    • Seeta, it’s been a while since I read a chicklit by an Indian author and given that I have completed 28 Indian authors in 2014, goes on to show the differences in the genres of the books that you and me pick up for reading 🙂

      It was only after reading this book that I read about the entire Goa Writers’ Group incident in which Jerry Pinto was involved with. In any case, what matters is what he has written in this book. Pick it up for sure, am more than sure you will enjoy it immensely.

      • No, I think my definition of chicks it is a little broader than the standard one. For e.g. I rate sorting out Sid as a chick lit, or the latest Rohit Gore one as a chicklit… 😛 . I have read just 4-5 indian authors in the last 3-4 months and at least 3 Of them for me fell into that category (extremely light stuff which does not border on literary at all..both in terms of story or quality of writing) Authors such as Anit Desai I had read years ago, need to pick her up again some day soon..

      • @Seeta, you seriously need to read The Shadow Throne by Aroon Raman, The Taj Conspiracy by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar, and then you will probably begin to start enjoying Indian authors again 🙂

      • i’ll do that 🙂 I guess what I had done was read the new Authors in the Indian Writing world… you know the current lot, esp. the ones who come from a background like ours.. wanted to know how they are… anyways I am done with that now.. just finished reading Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.. it was beautiful.. will have the review up soon.

  2. I would love the read Jerry Pinto’s em and the big hoom..read few of his short stories and this guys has a way with the language and its twist. Enjoyed ur review and feel I’m reading the book:)

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