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.
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 ...
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 (773 words).
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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