“Em and the Big Hoom” by Jerry Pinto may be positioned as a book about a mother’s descent into madness, but at the core to me, it was the story of a family. Not dysfunctional as much as a family thrown together in a circumstance, who make the most of life while dealing with the way things turn out for them.
Readers have speculated and critics have opinionated that the story is based on Jerry’s life and his family, however I did not read the book keeping that perception at the back of my head and neither should you.
The story starts and ends in a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen apartment in Mahim, Bombay. Bombay, because the time the story is set in, Mumbai was known as Bombay. Imelda Mendes – Em to her children (Em being Mother/Mom) keeps her family on its toes, with her humour, her candour, sometimes her love, her words and with her mental state of mind. The husband nurtures her and is there by her side, while the son and the daughter go through phases of happiness and sadness, so much so that they often wish to die.
The novel is narrated by the son as he makes sense of the madness surrounding them and also of the unconditional love his father, The Big Hoom had for his mother, Em. The book is also funny in parts (yes it is) and speaks of how the family maintains a balance through all of it.
“Em and the Big Hoom” speaks of love in a very different manner. For his first novel, Jerry Pinto has taken care not to make it clichéd or for that matter sentimental, though it speaks of madness and disjointed family ties.
Jerry Pinto’s writing is frank and in-your-face. He does not mince words and that works wonderfully, thereby adding the much needed comic relief at times. For me more than Em, it was the Big Hoom’s character that added all the intrigue and empathy – the silent rock in the background, always there and taking care of the family from falling apart. I loved the writing. It is lucid, running between the past and the present (50s and the 80s), which adds to the atmosphere of the book. Jerry Pinto sure has come a long way before writing this one and one can notice that in his reading. I really enjoyed this book and at times choked a bit too. A must-read.