Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

18693776

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

13530788

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!

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

19288239

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 386 pages.
Read from December 24, 2014 to January 04, 2015.

This is now the second book I’ve read by Murakami and he is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. Murakami has a way of reaching into his readers souls, in a sometimes abstract, but also profound and wonderful way.

Tsukuru is complete in his group of four friends, two girls and two boys. The five of them have an other worldly connection, however Tsukuru has always felt a little bit different from his friends. All of his friend’s last names relate to a color in the Japanese language, whereas Tsukuru’s means “to build”. Tsukuru and his friends use these colors as nicknames: Aka (red), Ao (blue), Shiro (white), Kuru (black) and they occasionally. but harmlessly, tease Tsukuru by calling him Colorless Tsukuru. After high school, Tsukuru moves to Tokyo, away from his dear friends in order to go to university so that he can learn to build trains, one of his passions. Tsukuru goes back and visits his friends as often as he can but during one of his visits his friends suddenly stop returning his calls and just like that, Colorless Tsukuru loses the people he cares about the most. He doesn’t ask or pursue why for nearly 15 years as the loss was just too devastating. The event changes his life forever and Tsukuru has to learn to define himself without the connections of his friends. Over the years Tsukuru struggles to maintain relationships and his happiness until he meets a young woman named Sara. This intriguing young woman, ignites something in Tsukuru and she pushes him to to look into his past and close some of the emotional wounds that are still weeping after his friends abandoned him.

Tsukuru story is about the journey we take to learn and define ourselves and the necessary sacrifices and risks that come with it, especially in terms of love.  The book also deeply touches on regret and reflects the situations where should have taken action. For Tsukuru, some of his regrets take form in his dreams. The book is also about change, mostly positive change, and how our personal growth  shapes and changes us based on the scenarios we go through and how we suffer.

I read this book over the Christmas holidays, which is always a busy time, but I wanted nothing more than to just sit down and devour this book. The book just spoke to me, which I believe it’s meant to, on a very generic scale, but I mean that in a good way. There are qualities and emotions that Murakami’s characters exude that almost any reader can relate to, a quality which,  many writer’s have, but I think Murakami’s characters go further than that. Readers start to look inward while examining Murakami’s characters. Like with Tsukuru,  his regrets and anguish make a reader look inward and examine their remaining scars, wounds and regrets that they’re still dealing with and through Tsukuru’s story, the reader feels a bit braver to deal with their own situation or perhaps a bit calmer after coming to terms with their own regrets.

Additionally, the writing is amazing. Even thought Murakami writes in Japanese, nothing gets lost in translation and every sentence is just as essential and potent in English.

Honestly, I would like to recommend this book to everyone and I’d be surprised if this book doesn’t remain one of my favourite reads of 2015. Great read!