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Book Review

Em and the Big Hoom

7/30/2014

bookCourtesy of Beaverdale Books

Review by Fay Jones

Penguin Books

06/24/14

$16

HIV

224 pp

In a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Bombay, India, a family does its best to coexist and contend with madness. Pinto’s elegant debut novel features Imelda (“Em”), a mother with manic depression, her husband Augustine (“the Big Hoom”) and their two children. Their son narrates the story, reaching back to describe his childhood wherein he deals with his mother’s mental illness.

He talks with his mother over tea, asking her questions to find out more about her life in order to piece together their family history. She allows her children to read her diary and letters and offers snide and crass commentary on her past. Through these conversations and Em smoking endless beedis, the narrator comes to know his mother better and learns of his parents’ courtship and her times in the psychiatric ward. He rides out his mother’s manic highs and stunning lows, dealing with alarming suicide attempts and frenzied outbursts, forever concerned something will happen to the steadfast Bog Hoom or that the madness will appear inside his own head.

With his brilliant dialogue and wry humor that helps cut through the ongoing intensity of the situation, Pinto offers a story of endearing family members as they face the horrors of mental illness and do their best to care for one another. CV

Fay Jones was born with a love of literature, which was finely shored up throughout her early years by her parents and a beloved children’s librarian who wore the thickest glasses ever manufactured. Jones once won a coupon for a free ice cream cone after her suggestion for a name for the local Reading Is Fundamental mascot was selected.

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