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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Sleepwalker's Guide To Dancing by Mira Jacob: Review


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The first reason why I really wanted to read this book was because of its gorrrrrgeous cover!!! Look at it, isn't it absolutely what the words 'book' 'reading' 'stories' 'words' is all about ..... Love it !!!

Coming back to the book, I was sent The Sleepwalker's Guide To Dancing by Mira Jacob by its publishers Bloomsbury. If you want to peep in a bit more inside the book, you can read the COVER JACKET HERE and a quick peek into ONE OF THE PAGES HERE.

The book is a lengthy one and has about some 500+ pages. The edition I received was paperback.

About The Story:
The main protagonist is Amina Eapen, a young woman of Indian origin who now lives in the US, is in her 30s and is an okayish wedding photographer. She isn't doing great career wise or personal love life wise at this point in life.

Her parents, who are in New Mexico, are barely on cordial terms anymore, though they share the same roof. Her father, Thomas Eapen, is a successful brain surgeon, while his mother, Kamala Eapen, is a homemaker, who believes she can tackle all problems of home and beyond by her cooking. The story starts to roll as Amina receives a call from her mother, asking her to come home as her father has been sitting on the porch and 'speaking to his mother.' Amina's grandmother is long dead, so it is a little concerning to her that her father is speaking to someone who isn't around. When Amina tries to probe if her father is unwell, her mother says that he is fine, but just that he is speaking to a woman who is dead.

As Amina decides to make the journey home, there are events that will take her not only back home, but to years past in her childhood. We meet Thomas Eapen's mother, his brother, wife and son Itty, all in their ancestral home in India. Amina and her brother Akhil are both in their childhood years during this time, and a certain family unpleasantness ends up making his father take the family and move back, cutting the vacation short. That's the last Amina ever sees of them.

My Take On It:
The story moves back and forth in time, spanning continents and generations. The classic plot of going back into some long kept family secret is at play here. Amina does discover something, and many of the characters are present till the end, though not being physically present in the story frame.

Mira Jacob does manage to write a cosy story. It is warm and based around family and familiar themes. There were many parts in the story that I really enjoyed, and some I did identify with. The story does have some paranormal feel too, which is nicely woven in the plot.

The immigrant angle is played to its full strength, with Indian origin families becoming more than just friends and more like a family, the constant tussle between parents who migrated from India and kids who grew up in the US, between color and the need to identify to a culture or place, with being seen as an outside back in your country of origin.

My problem with the book is that at parts it tends to get very boring and stretched. There are so many pages and pages that are absolutely unnecessary, and even when there are parts about Amina's career that may seem essential, it is an entirely can-easily-do-away-with kind of sub-story. For me, it adds nothing to the main story and I don't see a need why it was placed in the story. The only purpose it solves is to make the book really lengthy, which may not be a good idea for those who are not fans of thick books.

Also, while looked at as small parts there were pieces that read good, for me the story lacked a finish. It did not bring to closure what it started out to explore, and even after I finished reading the book in its entirety, I did not really know what happened. There were many pieces that lay just like that, questions unanswered. I do get the idea of 'showing and not telling' but in this case, I felt that the showing too was not done enough.

For that very reason, I would not be recommending this book. It was an okay read for me, but not something I would talk about to others or want to read again.

- Debolina Raja Gupta