Saturday 27 August 2016
facebook.com/Outlookindia twitter.com/outlookindia digimag.outlookindia.com instagram.com/outlookindia youtube.com/user/OutlookMagazine

Asleep In Jacob’s Room

Hailed as the new Jhumpa Lahiri, Jacob soars with a voice entirely her own, less bleak and more vibrant.
The Sleepwalker’s Guide To Dancing
By Mira Jacob
Bloomsbury | Pages: 512 | Rs. 599

Death, in fact, many deaths, loom large over Mira Jacob’s debut novel The Sleepwal­ker’s Guide To Dancing. Yet, the novel never feels weighed down by its dark moments, in Jacob’s sure hand, the narrative moves soft as breeze. The novel opens with a prologue where a mother complains to her daughter about her father’s latest shenanigans, affectionately, of course, and not without dollops of wry humour. It’s enough to pull you into their story, buoyant with everyday conversations that are comic, tragic, and often both.

Hailed as the new Jhumpa Lahiri, Jacob soars with a voice entirely her own, less bleak and more vibrant. The themes are similar—of the Indian immigrant experience in America as they make their way about, as Jacob puts it, “a stolen country”. We follow the lives of the Eapens, a family of four, Syrian Christians who’ve made the stark landscape of Albuquerque, New Mexico, their home. The book moves seamlessly between Salem, Tamil Nadu, in the late ’70s, the place where the extended Eapen family is based, and Albuquerque in the ’80s and ’90s, with flashes of Seattle.

Advertisement

Though not written in first person, this is, in many ways, the story of the Eapens as observed by their younger child, Amina. She’s only 11 when she witnesses the extended family fall apart, and a little older when a serious tragedy strikes the family. She observes fragile relationships become more fragile. Her older brother, Akhil, her housewife mother, Kamala, her brain surgeon father, Thomas, are like characters in a play, as Amina watc­hes from the wings, underestimating the power of her own mind. When tragedy strikes the family yet again, Amina is in her teens, watching her parents struggling to cope, and left to her own devices. She emerges some 15 years later as a reserved, under-confident but talented photographer based in Seattle. She’s trying to deal with a professional crisis of her own when her mother, Kamala, shakes her up with some fresh, disturbing news: her father has apparently been talking to his dead mother and other relatives out on the porch in the dead of the night. It’s time for her to make the journey home to Albuquerque, Amina decides, to set things right.

Jacob captures the discomfort of her characters with themselves and their world with a keen sense of having been there herself.

But as often is the case with complex family matters, some things can never be set ‘right’. And so discovers Amina, over the next few months, as the Eapen nucleus as she knows it comes undone, haunted by an almost unspeakable past. It seems easier for Jacob’s characters to sleeptalk, sleepwalk, or as in the case of Thomas, not sleep at all. That metaphor runs through the novel like a knife, cutting deep into the heart of an otherwise regular, middle-class Indian family in a land not quite their own.

Jacob captures the discomfort of her characters with themselves and their world with a keen sense of having been there. The novel is not exactly autobiographical, but there are similarities between Jacob’s life and the Eapen story. That gives her an edge, allowing her to create characters that are full-bodied, flawed and endearing in their various quirks. As Amina’s life unravels towards the end of the novel, it also comes together in many ways, leaving many loose ends while tying up a few others. Isn’t life like that?

READ MORE IN:
AUTHORS: Neha Bhatt
SECTION: Books
SUBSECTION: Reviews
OUTLOOK: 18 August, 2014
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
REVIEW
Review
These pacy thrillers put two southern cities on the crime map
MAGAZINE August 24, 2016
Review
The dark world Harry & Co inhabit changes little after 22 years
MAGAZINE August 24, 2016
Extract
How a brutal LTTE directive was lost in the static of intelligence
MAGAZINE August 18, 2016
Review
A RBI governor remembers his doughty fights, but cuts down on the math
MAGAZINE August 11, 2016
Book Extract
Abused by a relative at six, Laxmi saw how patriarchy tried to crush her femininity. And she made it come back to crush them, ‘those straight men with wives and kids’.
MAGAZINE August 10, 2016
read more>>>
OUTLOOK ON TWITTER
POLLS

In 1999, India and France entered into a $3.5 billion deal for the supply of these submarines. The first of the 6 subs is out on sea trials for the last three months and is to be commissioned later this year. At this stage, a newspaper in Australia has revealed secret data on the submarines, plausibly stolen from India. Indian Defence authorities have ruled out any pilferage of data from India.

POLL STARTED ON: Aug 26, 2016
Quiz
Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is hosting the 31st Olympic Games from August 5 to 21. This is the first Olympics being held in South America and is going on even as a majority Brazilians are unhappy with their rulers. Here’s a quiz on some random Olympic facts and related trivia.
QUIZ STARTED ON: Aug 11, 2016
Advertisement