Wednesday 28 September 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.

Advertisement

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.

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.

Advertisement

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:
After The Clouds Have Gone Bibliofile
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
Except for the excellent profiles, rehashed articles don’t serve Guha well
MAGAZINE September 21, 2016
Book Extract
The Honey Bee network gathers lessons in creativity from the grassroots
MAGAZINE September 21, 2016
Review
All the start-up entrepreneurs featured in the book have amazing stories to tell—of struggle, of peer pressure and of intrigue.
MAGAZINE September 15, 2016
Review
A compilation of the events that led to the 2013 IPL batting-fixing scandal and its consequences
MAGAZINE September 15, 2016
Review
Alexievich’s visceral first-person accounts from the last days of the USSR are saturated with anger, longing and hope
MAGAZINE September 15, 2016
read more>>>
OUTLOOK ON TWITTER
POLLS

More than a decade after India first started the procurement process, it has finally inked an €8bn agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault. The original deal was to buy 126 Rafales to replace the accident-prone Russian MiG-21s. Ultimately, the government offered to buy only 36 ready-to-fly planes.

POLL STARTED ON: Sep 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