Published by Penguin on 6/24/2014
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A son looks back on his life in Bombay with his larger than life mother, Em, and supportive father, affectionately known as The Big Hoom. Through Em’s letters and unreliable stories, he attempts to piece together how she met his father and fell into a lifelong cycle of manic depression.
Constantly afraid he will inherit his mother’s madness, the unnamed narrator listens carefully as Em weaves in and out of stories and styles. Em’s tales vary from hilarious, raunchy dating tips to the confession that her children were her undoing, with bouts of unbearable depression and regular hospitalization in between. Each member of her family becomes a carefully placed crutch in her support system, while wondering how much longer they can all hang on.
Despite its topic, Pinto keeps Em and the Big Hoom from feeling weighted or heavy, as the novel is lifted by Em’s charm and her family’s overwhelming love. Even in the darkest moments, as her words directly wound those around her, there is an understanding of the disease among her family and thought is carefully chosen over reaction. Jerry Pinto takes a subject that is often swept aside and turns it into an engaging, reflective story.
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