Friday, December 19, 2014

#BookReview: The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

On the jacket:

The story of a family, divided across generations and cultures, wrestling with its future and its past, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is at once magical, mouth-watering and heartbreaking.  Of all the family gatherings in her childhood, one stands out in Amina’s memory. It is 1979, in Salem India, when a visit to her grandmother’s house escalates into an explosive encounter, pitching brother against brother, mother against son.  In its aftermath, Amina’s father Thomas rushes his family back to their new home in America. And while at first it seems that the intercontinental flight has taken them out of harm's way, his decision sets off a chain of events that will forever haunt Thomas and his wife Kamala; their intellectually furious son, Akhil and the watchful young Amina.  Now, twenty years later, Amina receives a phone call from her mother. Thomas has been acting strangely and Kamala needs her daughter back. Amina returns to the New Mexico of her childhood, where her mother has always filled silences with food, only to discover that getting to the truth is not as easy as going home.  Confronted with Thomas’s unwillingness to talk, Kamala’s Born Again convictions, and the suspicion that not everything is what it seems, Amina finds herself at the centre of a mystery so tangled that to make any headway, she has to excavate her family’s painful past. And in doing so she must lay her own ghosts to rest.


The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is Mira Jacob's  debut novel. Set in India, Seattle and Albuquerque, the book spans from the late 70s and early 80s to about 1998. 

In 1979, we meet the Eapen family in Salem, India where they are visiting from America. The main character here is Thomas Eapen, a surgeon in Seattle. While in India, his mother tries to convince him to stay back. His wife would love to stay back, but Thomas wants a better life for his family.

The story moves to 1998, where we see Amina Eapen who is now a photographer in Seattle. Thomas is unwell and his wife calls Amina home. Here the story goes back to the early 80s, where Amina and her brother Akhil were children. We see them growing up and travel through time with their lives. Akhil is shown to have some problems but Thomas doesn't take it very seriously. This creates a mystery angle, about Akhil.

Bonds, connectiosn to the homeland, relationships, connections between old and new worlds, everything has been given such a fine treatement, it's hard to believe this is Jacob's first novel. The element of secrecy has been paid special attention to and the treatement given is wonderful. 

This book is indeed, as the author says, ",,,what it means, as an immigrant, to make a life in a stolen country."

Rating: *****/5

[This review is for Bloomsbury India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.]

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