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September 14 , 2008

Em and the Big Hoom


Brilliantly comic and almost unbearably moving, Jerry Pinto's Em and the Big Hoom is one of the most powerful and original fiction debuts of recent years.

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She was always Em to us. There may have been a time when we called her something ordinary like Mummy, or Ma, but I don't remember. She was Em, and our father, sometimes, was the Big Hoom.

In a tiny flat in Bombay Imelda Mendes - Em to her children - holds her family in thrall with her flamboyance, her manic affection and her cruel candour. Her husband - to whom she was once 'Buttercup' - and her two children must bear her 'microweathers', her swings from laugh-out-loud joy to dark malevolence.

In Em and the Big Hoom, the son begins to unravel the story of his parents: the mother he loves and hates in the same moment and the unusual man who courted, married and protected her - as much from herself as from the world.

'It is utterly persuasive and deeply affecting: stylistically adventurous it is never self-indulgent; although suffused with pain it shows no trace of self-pity. Parts of it are extremely funny, and its pages are filled with endearing and eccentric characters' Amitav Ghosh

'Pinto chases the elusive portrait of a mother who simply said of herself that she was mad. As I read this novel, that also portrays a very tender marriage and the life of a Goan family in Bombay, it drowned me. I mean that in the best way. It plunged me into a world so vivid and capricious, that when I finished, I found something had shifted and changed within myself. This is a world of magnified and dark emotion. The anger is a primal force, the sadness wild and raw. Against this, the jokes are hilarious, reckless, free falling .... This is a rare, brilliant book, one that is wonderfully different from any other that I have read coming out of India' Kiran Desai

'A child's-eye view of madness and sorrow, full of love, pain, and, unaccountably, much wild comedy. ne of the very best books to come out of India in a long, long time' Salman Rushdie

Jerry Pinto has been a mathematics tutor, school librarian and journalist and is now associated with MelJol, an NGO that works in the sphere of child rights. He has edited several anthologies including, most recently, an anthology on his native city, Mumbai.

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