‘Em and the Big Hoom’ by Jerry Pinto


This is a curious book. It’s deeply touching but in some important parts the emotional engagement is lacking.

What I mean by that is that the narrator, his sister and even his father, the ‘Big Hoom’ of the title never seem to become much more than the supporting characters that they are. I never felt particularly affected by their suffering and loss, which is substantial.

Perhaps that’s because of the immense power, charisma and tragedy of the central character, Imelda Mendes or Em, as she’s known to her children.

She’s mentally ill, swinging from hilarious and outrageous good humour to such intolerable depths of pain that make the term ‘depression’ hopelessly inadequate.

But she’s drawn with such affection and honesty that you can’t help but love her as much as do her long-suffering family.

This novel unfolds through conversations and Jerry Pinto is an absolute master of conversation. He perfectly captures Em’s free-wheeling and inventive way of looking at the world and her own history. She’s capricious, vulnerable, intense and outrageous. And so, so sad.

So while I may not have ended feeling that I’d learned anything significant about her poor family, reading this brought Em wholly and unforgettably alive.

Oh and it has one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen in a new book.

2 thoughts on “‘Em and the Big Hoom’ by Jerry Pinto

  1. “Love is never enough.Madness is enough. It is complete,sufficient unto itself…… You’re a tourist. She is a resident.”

    An incredibly moving, unusual memoir of a mother’s mental illness, written in her son’s perspective. It takes you into an alternate world, which struggles to find a balance with the real world. A deep, imaginative, honest and painful picture is coated with some gentle humor here. Yet, such depth is presented with such ease and simplicity by Jerry Pinto.The language is elegant, some scenes are heart breaking, humor is brought in effortlessly in such a dark, painful story; making it an awesome book in more ways than one.

    This captivating novel, above all, teaches one to love. The strongly autobiographical element, straight from the heart makes this well written book a good read (than many well researched ones). It has the power to leave you wanting for more.

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