Book Reviews

Book Review – EM and the big HOOM


Book Title: EM and the big HOOM

Author     : Jerry Pinto

Publisher: Aleph Book Company

Language: English

ISBN         : 978-93-82277-31-6



A few pages into Jerry Pinto’s, Em and the Big Hoom, a tap opened inside of my soul. The dripping jet black liquid was similar to the one flowing from the faucet of Em’s disturbed and fragmented mind. The imagery this book evoked in my head turned me into an insomniac for a few days. Whenever I did manage a few winks, the silent screams of Em’s children jolted me awake. They watched Imelda Mendes turn into Em, feeling helpless to stop the transformation but willing to take care of their dear Em. The big Hoom was like an immobile steel wall constructed in their one bedroom house in Mumbai, existing for the sole purpose of keeping the roof from falling on his family members’ fragile and mangled lives.

It is not often that you pick up a book to read a story but end up inhabiting the protagonist’s life to such an extent that his struggles, confusion and pain become yours too. It is sheer torture to see your parent being reduced to a helpless state and when you have to take on the added responsibility of safeguarding her life, you age overnight. Children are resilient and can take on heavier burdens on their thin shoulders in their family’s hour of need. It is a different matter altogether that their sweet innocence is lost in the gushing of their mother’s blood on the bathroom floor and in the scattered pages of her stories soaked crimson on normal days and the blackest of blacks on heartbreaking days.

Big Hoom is a silent force in the book, his agony and heartbreak reaches out of the folds of the book effortlessly to capture the readers’ hearts. Just like we don’t see the air but feel it, big Hoom tells his story in silence and makes us sit up and listen. I loved this brilliantly written masterpiece by Jerry Pinto, the many layers of emotions interwoven in the pages of his book tugged at my heartstrings. He doesn’t go overboard with theatrics even though the subject matter allows for it. He makes light of tough situations and injects humor in the narrative to cushion the blow for his readers. There were moments in the story that had me smiling at EM’s brand of dark humor but also had me reaching a tentative hand to my heart to still its erratic beating.

A family comprises of people who love and support each other through thick and thin. When one member falls apart the rest of them gather up the broken pieces and try to put them together again. They take turns keeping vigil and each one hands over the charge to the other before relinquishing his/her post. She is EM, their beloved mother and big Hoom’s wife. EM is unpredictable and unreliable due to her mental illness. The struggle and the hardships her family faces to keep her amidst them are both heartening and heartrending.

Why do some of us come undone in life?

Were the seeds of disquiet sown during her childhood?

How does one turn the faucet off and stem the flow?

When and why does a mother become an EM?

By Sulekha Rawat

14 thoughts on “Book Review – EM and the big HOOM

  1. First of all, Sulekha, your book review is indescribable! I was awestruck by the words you selected to express the pain you felt on reading about EM and the turmoil her family had to go through. You are the best! And, I am not exaggerating.
    I read this book long back, when I was battling the stress I faced as I came to terms with my MIL’s mental illness (schizophrenia). And, that’s one reason I could relate to the story so well. My husband and my SIL have been through the exact same thing – it’s their life story!
    It’s a book that can leave us tossing and turning in our sleep, and yet feel the pain of not just EM but also her little babies who brave the storms that wreak havoc on their world.
    It is a beautiful book, but you need nerves of steel to go through it and stay there till the very end.

  2. Your review is as wonderful as the book Sulekha. Only someone who truly felt it could write like this. As for the book itself – I have no words at all. I attempted to review it many times over but I always felt whatever I wrote couldn’t do it justice and then finally just gave it up. Isn’t it amazing how he never directly mentions the heartbreak, and yet the pain tears through the layers of humour?

    1. Tulika, true that. The unsaid trauma and heartbreak got to me and I felt their pain while reading the story. It took me a while to write this review and there is so much more I wanted to share about it but couldn’t due to the dull ache in my heart. Thank you for visiting, commenting on and sharing my post.

  3. Wow Sulekha. You captured the essence of the book beautifully. I loved the book and like Tulika says, i could not review it. Because I felt I will not do justice to this magnificent writing. It’s the best Indian writing after maybe Arundhati Roy.

  4. I want to read this book as soon as possible–is the feeling I have after reading your review, Sulekha! You have interpreted the book so beautifully! And the questions at the end are priceless! Hugs!

  5. Wow, you review is class apart… your style of writing and expression is so impressive and evocative. I can imagine how deeply you must have felt for the book to write so beautifully.

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