Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

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3/5 stars.
Paperback, 224 pages.
Read on January 19, 2015

This book was recommended to me and I was able finish reading it in one sitting as I was on a flight to Cuba. Admittedly this was the first time that I had even heard of the author, Jerry Pinto, who has published numerous books. This particular novel is Pinto’s first and, based on some quick research, is a story about his own family and the experiences that they went through in terms of his mother’s mental illness. Pinto really embodies what it can be like living with someone who is severely mentally ill.

The setting of the novel takes place in India and revolves around a family of four. Imelda, or as she is more often called, Em, is the mother and is unfortunately prone to bouts of bi-polar and schizophrenic like behavior and is frequently hospitalized for suicide attempts. The story details how Em met Austine, or The Big Hoom, as she often calls him and how the courtship shortly changed when Em started to exhibit some strange behaviors. As Em struggles through her madness, her son puts together their family’s story. Em’s children are sadly exposed to situations that no one should ever have to deal with. They are constantly worrying about her mental state, if she is manic or depressive and if they need to worry about her attempting to take her own life. In one passage, Pinto perfectly sums up what is is like to have someone you love be effected so severely by mental illness:

“Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself. You can only stand outside it, as a woman might stand outside a prison in which her lover is locked up. From time to time, a well-loved face will peer out and love floods back. A scrap of cloth flutters and it becomes a sign and a code and a message and all that you want it to be. Then it vanishes, and you are outside the dark tower again.”

Mental illness is heartbreaking, especially for the loved ones as it turns everyone’s world upside down. The support isn’t the same either, it’s not like a family member has cancer and everyone can understand the situation and can sympathize with it, so often loved ones will feel alienated and alone as mental illness is so unique and still not fully understood. While Em’s situation scars her family, it also ultimately brings them together as well. The ending of the story brings some solace for Em, for her loved ones, and is heart warming for the reader.

My one complaint with this novel was the constant use and ever changing nicknames of the characters. I imagine that because this book is somewhat autobiographical the nicknames come from Pinto’s own experiences, but in terms of this novel, it was a bit jarring and unnecessary. If you removed the nicknames, the story would have still been just as effective.

Overall an eye-opening novel into the life and times of a family dealing with a loved ones mental illness, a story, that is not told often enough.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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3/5 stars.
ebook, 434 pages.
Read from January 06 to 15, 2015.

Gone Girl, is probably Gillian Flynn’s bestseller. While this book isn’t any less twisted than her other novels, this one has been made into a motion picture and it has a level of crazy that people are intrigued by.  Flynn has an amazing knack to write about some very twisted and mysterious plots, making her one of the most popular and most read mystery/thriller authors around right now.

Nick and Amy Dunne are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary when Amy suddenly goes missing. After the couple both suffer lay-offs, they move to Nick’s hometown to be closer to his ailing mother. The move was not one that Amy wanted which just adds to the tension of their fumbling marriage. Things were not always that way with the two of them however. While Amy comes from a family of some money, thanks to a series of children’s books that were written about her by her parents titled “Amazing Amy”,  her parents have been reckless with the money and found themselves in debt and are unable to assist the couple. When Amy goes missing, fingers start to point towards Nick, especially since things had been so tense before her disappearance. His demeanor with the press and police doesn’t help either as he appears cold and nonchalant about his missing wife. Did Nick do something horrible to his wife? Or is it one of the Amy’s crazed book fan stalkers? The end result, I assure you, is unlike anything you could have imagined.

Amy and Nick are not particularly likable characters, a trait which Flynn is quite adept in applying with her other novels as well, yet she seems to be able to keep her readers curious enough about her peculiar characters that they continue on. I found that when I read Dark Places, I eventually came to really enjoy the lead characters and I was rooting for them by the end, however in this novel, I never came to like Nick or Amy, which is why I probably enjoyed this novel less. However, in typical Flynn fashion, I was intrigued enough to continue on. Nick is self-centered and emotionless and Amy is a bit of a snob, however, it’s still hard to watch their blossoming and seemingly perfect love dissipate so harshly just before Amy’s disappearance. Nick also does something pretty despicable, which I won’t spoil for you, which set me off of him for good.

The ending of the book is the embodiment of twisted. I imagine Flynn just relishing in these perfectly wacko scenarios. You may not approve of the characters but you can’t deny the perfect calamity of the ending and feel some sort of weird satisfaction with it. I think this is the reason why Flynn is as popular as she it. She knows how interested and curious people are with the realm of the weird, borderline insane, or dark aspects of the human mind. I think the reason we are so intrigued is that deep down we know that we are all capable of doing some pretty messed up things, and what’s scarier, is that we could find a way to valid them too.

Overall, I did enjoy this novel, though in my opinion it didn’t compare to Dark Places. It’s a sassy, psychological mystery-thriller that is sure to appeal to almost any reader. Now I just have to read Sharp Objects and I can pick my favourite!

Canada Reads 2015 Short List

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Sorry for the late post gang! I was away in Cuba for a wedding last week and I must still be running on Cuban time.

While I was away the Canada Reads 2015 shortlist was announced! I’m so excited! There are some great books on the list this year and Wab Kinew picked a great question and theme this year: What is the one book to break barriers?

I’ll be working my way through the shortlist and will be posting all of my reviews to give everyone the low-down on this years selection. Here are the books that made the cut:

1) And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins

2) Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes by Kamal Al-Solaylee

3) Ru by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman

4) The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

5) When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid

The debate for the winner takes place on March 16-19! I’ll do my best to read all of these books before then.