The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob
ISBN-10: 0812994787 - Hardcover $26.00
Publisher: Random House (July 1, 2014), 512 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.
Celebrated brain surgeon Thomas Eapen has been sitting on his porch, talking to dead relatives. At least that is the story his wife, Kamala, prone to exaggeration, tells their daughter, Amina, a photographer living in Seattle.
Reluctantly Amina returns home and finds a situation that is far more complicated than her mother let on, with roots in a trip the family, including Amina’s rebellious brother Akhil, took to India twenty years earlier. Confronted by Thomas’s unwillingness to explain himself, strange looks from the hospital staff, and a series of puzzling items buried in her mother’s garden, Amina soon realizes that the only way she can help her father is by coming to terms with her family’s painful past. In doing so, she must reckon with the ghosts that haunt all of the Eapens.
Review:The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing delivers a hilarious and moving story of three generations of an Indian (South Asian) family. Mira Jacob delivers complex characters, nuanced relationships, and an engrossing story.
The book opens with Amina Eapen, single professional photographer working on weddings and celebrations, learns from her mother Kamala that her brain surgeon father Thomas has been acting strange. Thomas has apparently been seeing and speaking to dead family members and seems even more distracted than usual. Amina finds replacement photographers for her assignments and leaves her comfortable life for what she expected would be one week.
But as Amina learns more details of her parents' changed behavior, she finds that she's unable to return to her old job and life - at least until things normalize. Her close family friend, a.k.a. "cousin" Dimples, is a go-getter, beautiful and works at an art gallery. Dimples is used to getting her way and has no qualms about taking advantage of Amina. But even in her most manipulative, Dimples is still a sympathetic character.
Throughout the novel, even the most difficult and temperamental characters are easy to sympathize with and to love. Mira Jacob gives us a beautiful and sympathetic immigrant story from multiple points of view: the perspective of the parents left behind in the homeland who long for their successful doctor son Thomas to return and the resentful and overlooked younger brother who lives with the widowed mother in the family home, the successful Thomas who has decided to make a home in Albuquerque with his Indian wife Kamala and their young children, the brilliant children who adjust, with differing degrees of success, to their lives in their privileged part of America.
About the Author:
Mira Jacob is the author of the novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing (Random House).
She is the co-founder of the much-loved Pete’s Reading Series in Brooklyn, where she spent 13 years bringing literary fiction, non-fiction, and poetry to the city’s sweetest stage. Previously, she directed editorial content for various websites, co-authored shoe impresario Kenneth Cole’s autobiography, and wrote VH-1’s Pop-Up Video.
Her writing has been published in books, magazines, on television, and across the web. She has appeared on national and local television and radio, and has taught writing to students of all ages in New York, New Mexico, and Barcelona.
She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, documentary filmmaker Jed Rothstein, and their son. Learn more about Mira Jacob on her website at http://www.mirajacob.com/index.html