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October 14, 2014

Book Review: The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

Text by Nittal Chandarana

Verve reviews Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, a book filled with spaces of sense amidst heady nostalgia

The Read: The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing
Author: Mira Jacob
Publisher: Bloomsbury India

Unravelling: A book about loving and longing and the unfurling of heady nostalgia. The narrative is told in various layers of flashbacks and leaves you impatient, as cliffhangers mar the end of each chapter. Amina Eapen has migrated to Seattle with her cousin, Dimple, from Albuquerque, where their families have settled after leaving behind their motherland, India. The very memory of Salem leaves the Eapens disoriented and continues to pause their life at ready intervals. Her mother’s unwillingness to conform to the American culture, the father’s patient attempts to help her (gradually reaching their saturation) and her brother’s rebelliousness keeps eating away at the once-happy family. Amina has engrossed herself in a life of drudgery at Seattle when an urgent phone call from her mother prompts her to visit the family. There seems to be something wrong with her dad. And thereby hangs a tale.

What we loved: All the references to photography and how sometimes, the best pictures are taken when no one’s posing; poignant moments amidst all the paraphernalia.
We’ve always wondered what makes the books of migratory authors so magical. Maybe the honest exposure to both worlds. Maybe they’re forced into keen observation as a side-effect of being thrust into a new world with unfamiliar people and places. We can’t quite put a finger on it. But this book is one of those. One that needs recovering from. One that makes you float into an isolated bubble of your own, reminiscing all that you just read. It gives you an experience. Like every good book does.

Our man: Jamie Anderson. Because rarely are such men found, lost and found again.

Caught our eye: So many beautiful, insightful lines in this one. What we liked especially was a dialogue between siblings Akhil and Amina about their father:
Akhil shrugged. “Indians don’t leave. They’re into the whole live-forever-in-misery thing.”
Amina considered this: “You really think he’s miserable?” 
“I think he’s a product of his race and time.”

Maybe not: A few clichéd moments found themselves into the book. Maybe they were put in to add flashes of normalcy among all the bizarre. We would have opted for the bizarre.

Finally: Pick it up for the experience of finishing a good, observant book. It made us smile, cry and mainly, just wonder.

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