Nothing is more precious in this world than Mom. She is the most important person in our lives and is the centre of our world. She is always an anchor for her children and is even willing to fight against the whole world to protect them. When we were small, isn't she the one whom we used to rush to with our problems and even today, I, seek my mother's councel whenever life throws a spanner in my well laid plans.
Now imagine a scenario where the roles get reversed and instead of mom being the protector/provider, she is the one who needs to be looked after in all physical, mental and emotional aspects. How daunting it seems, right!
This is exactly what the main theme of Pinto's debut novel is. The story revolves around a simple middle class family living in Mahim, Mumbai( Bombay, in those days) where Imelda Mendes, Em to her children suffers from mental illness. In the one bedroom-hall-kitchen, all 450 square feet of it, Augustine, Big Hoom to his children and his two children come face to face with Em's unpredictable mood swings on a daily basis. Her family adjusts their life in accordance to her flamboyance, her compelling imaginations, her unspoken love and at times even her candid cruelty. Augustine is the rock of the family and is the one and only constant stable factor in the lives of his children. He seamlessly takes over the dual roles of a breadwinner and that of a house maker when the symptoms of Em's illness became evident . He never complains or holds a grudge against Imelda, because he truly loved her. Their love is intriguing as it was pure, selfless and true. The children love Em very much as all children are programmed to do so but she is also a mystery to them. They try to understand the cause and the beginning of her illness by talking to her about her earlier life and going through her letters, but they never can come to any conclusion.
Reading a debut novel is like playing a gamble, if one is lucky enough then it's ok but if luck is not your side then you end up hating the book. In this case, I turned out to be very lucky.
Pinto is an excellent story teller and the best part about him is that he does not waste his or the reader's time in writing long descriptive passages. He writes in a very simple language with a beautiful flow, which in itself is a mark of a truly good story teller. The topic he has chosen for his debut novel is a very serious one - mental illness. He writes how this illness affects not only the patient but his/her family too and how they all learn to cope with it together. The characters go through myriad emotions of anger, helplessness, frustration, fear, laughter, joy, hope, sadness but Pinto never lets the characters take the self pity route. It is a straight forward story about a family'earnest struggle to lead a normal life while dealing with Em's mood swings which like a pendulum shift from highest high to the lowest low. Though anger is the main emotion underlying this story, Pinto has very nicely added some light moments to keep the reader interested in the story.
After reading this book I want to thank Jerry Pinto for reaffirming my faith that even though today every author is more keen to market his book than being concerned about the story of the book, there are authors like Pinto himself who believe that a good book will definitely find its readers with or without "any in your face" marketing tricks.