Book: Em and the Big Hoom
Author: Jerry Pinto
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Price: Rs. 399
It is of no surprise that I devour books -mostly fictions, a couple of non-fiction, some classics and a lot of unimpressive reads, thanks to review copies. It is when the latter gets a little overwhelming that I go back to book recommendations from trusted readers and rummage through my almost dusty TBR. And once in a while I come across a gem of a book, that breaks me and tears me apart and has me cursing myself for not picking it up sooner. Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto is that book.
Em and the Big Hoom is one book that I have constantly seen on my Instagram feed. It made its way into my online wishlists perhaps a year ago, only to be buried under the humongous pile of books-that-I-wanted-to-read-but-was-too-broke-to-buy. It was only when, a couple of months back, Pinto came in like a tornado to my class at Xavier’s to give a 2-hour lecture (a lecture is to put it subtly) that I knew that I had to read this book. (It did take me a while, still) Pinto is hands down the craziest human being I have ever met in my life. He was just abusing us left, right and centre, recounting his college days in Xavier’s, his crazy experiments with other students, all to drive home the point – the importance of standing out in a crowd. To write every day and to stay away from the evils of social media were two other messages from him, which I obviously did not follow (guilty as charged) He had said that it took him 25 years to write this book and that he knew it would be a best seller the moment he wrote it. A part of the reason I wanted to read the book was to find out if it did have something special; a part of me just wanted to disregard him as yet another writer who claimed to be “different,” only to cook up a completely ordinary tale. Last week when I desperately needed a break, I decided to read this book. And I could say that it changed my life.
Em and the Big Hoom tells the story of Em (Imelda Mendes, but Em to her children) and The Big Hoom (Em’s husband) and their two children. Em is battling with mental illness and the story revolves around how the family deals with the unpredictabilities of Em’s illness. Narrated by Em’s son, the book is a heart-wrenching tale of love, relationships and holding on when the tides turn without any warning. The book also gives us a glimpse into the life in a “small flat in a city of small flats.”
Pinto is so good at what he does that I don’t think anyone could have done a better job with this story. The characters are so well-written that from the very first page you feel connected to each one. Every page is so vividly written that it almost feels like you are right there in the middle of this chaos of a family, and you understand what each member is going through. Em is the centre of their universe and she is constantly trying to kill herself and on the better days, trying to show her family how much she loves them. The kids are robbed of a normal childhood and struggling to deal with what life throws at them day after day. And the Big Hoom -he is what holds this dysfunctional family together. What does it take to love a mentally ill person unconditionally, year after year? Is thirty years of mrriage all it takes?
Anything less makes you less. Was that how it was for him as a husband? She had loved him, and he would never forget it; he would be with her and love her in return, always, even if it wasn’t enough.
Throughout the novel, I could see Pinto’s persona screaming at me. Be it the strong language or the page numbers written on the sides of the pages rather than at the bottom or top as is the norm, or the sprayed edges (which though is not uncommon these days)- all helped add some uniqueness to the book. Also the title -who can even come up with something like Em and the Big Hoom?
Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto is hands down one of the best Indian fiction that I have ever read. Just over 200 pages long, this book is so intense, emotional and so beautifully-crafted that it was truly an unputdownable read. It is one of those rare books whose characters are so well-written that they refuse to leave you, even when the last page is long forgotten. I cannot recommend this book enough. READ THIS, please. And NOW!