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Summary and book reviews of Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

Em and the Big Hoom

by Jerry Pinto

Em and the Big Hoom
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    Jun 2014, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

Em and the Big Hoom is a modern masterpiece, an accomplished debut that is graceful and urgent, with a one-of-a-kind voice that will stay with readers long after the last page.

First published by a small press in India, Jerry Pinto's devastatingly original debut novel has already taken the literary world by storm. Suffused with compassion, humor, and hard-won wisdom, Em and the Big Hoom is a modern masterpiece, and its American publication is certain to be one of the major literary events of the season.

Meet Imelda and Augustine, or - as our young narrator calls his unusual parents - Em and the Big Hoom. Most of the time, Em smokes endless beedis and sings her way through life. She is the sun around which everyone else orbits. But as enchanting and high-spirited as she can be, when Em's bipolar disorder seizes her she becomes monstrous, sometimes with calamitous consequences for herself and others. This accomplished debut is graceful and urgent, with a one-of-a-kind voice that will stay with readers long after the last page.

Excerpt
Em and the Big Hoom

She was in Ward 33 again, lying in bed, a bed with a dark green sheet and a view of the outside. We could both see a man and a woman getting out of a taxi. They were young and stood for a while, as if hesitating, in front of the hospital. Then the man took the woman's hand in his and they walked into the hospital and we lost them.

'That's why Indian women fall ill,' Em said. 'So that their husbands will hold their hands.'

'Is that why you're here?'

I wanted to bite my tongue. I wanted to whiz around the world, my red cape flying, and turn time back so that I could choose not to make that remark. But Em, being Em, was already replying.

'I don't know, Baba, I don't know why. It's a tap somewhere. It opened when you were born.'

I was repaid in pain, a sharp thing.

'I loved you. And before you I loved Susan, the warmth of her and the smiles and the tiny toes and ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Em and the Big Hoom is a slim little book that packs an enormous emotional wallop. This is one of those novels that will leave an impression on its readers and likely be remembered long after it's read. It will certainly resonate with those who have had experience with mental illness, and its universal theme of parent-child relationships will strike a familiar cord in many other readers as well.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review Members Only (773 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

[A] trim but deeply felt first novel that successfully navigates some difficult territory—identity, madness, our obligations to one another - without ever becoming bogged down.

Financial Times (UK)

A delightful debut... Written with genuine compassion and sincerity, while a sprinkling of black humour ensures it is never overly sentimental.

The Guardian (UK)

Delightful … Pinto is quite a genius with dialogue.

The Asian Age (India)

Em and the Big Hoom is a joyous read that leaves you chuckling and sad, at once.

Dnaindia.com

Pinto's prose quicksilvers its way through time and emotions, slipping in wit and pulling out despair elegantly… Every one of Pinto's characters feels alive and real.

The Hindu (India)

Deeply engrossing, finely-tuned, and told with a moving and luminous clarity, this is a splendid and memorable debut.

Asian Review of Books

This is a small and beautiful book … Pinto's writing has startling sweetness

Author Blurb Amitav Ghosh, author of The Glass Palace
Profoundly moving... I cannot remember when I last read something as touching as this.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

Em and the Big Hoom
Absolutely love the title of this little gem of a book. Bombay, India and a family of four, the son in his twenties, his younger sister, his dad who they call the big hoom and his mother, whose bi-polar illness has effected them all. Love the way...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Bipolar Disorder

In Em and the Big Hoom, Imelda Mendes ("Em") suffers from bipolar disorder, a condition formerly known as "manic depression" that about 2.4% of people around the world have been diagnosed with at some point in their lifetime.

Bipolar disorder manifests itself as extreme highs and lows in mood, with these swings being far more severe than people ordinarily experience. In the manic phase people may appear overly joyful, excited or agitated, and may exhibit erratic or irresponsible behavior. They may also suffer from delusions, such as believing they're excessively wealthy or have special powers. After a period of time — which could be a few hours, days or weeks — the individual will then move into a depressive phase, where ...

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