NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A winning, irreverent debut novel about a family wrestling with its future and its past
“With wit and a rich understanding of human foibles, [Mira] Jacob unspools a story that will touch your heart.”—People
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The Boston Globe, The Millions, Kirkus Reviews
With depth, heart, and agility, debut novelist Mira Jacob takes us on a deftly plotted journey that ranges from 1970s India to suburban 1980s New Mexico to Seattle during the dot.com boom. The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is an epic, irreverent testimony to the bonds of love, the pull of hope, and the power of making peace with life’s uncertainties.
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.
Toggling back and forth between the early 1980s and late 1990s, Jacob's emotionally bountiful debut immerses us in the lives of Amina Eapen and her extended Indian-American family, who have lived in Albuquerque, N.Mex., since the late 1960s. In 1998, Amina, then age 30, works as a wedding photographer, having given up a promising photojournalism career after a single picture a photo of a Native American activist jumping off a bridge made her notorious. She moved to Seattle to distance herself from her overbearing parents, Kamala and Thomas, but returns home after learning that Thomas, a surgeon, has begun acting strangely. She plans to make it a short trip but decides to stay after her father is diagnosed with a brain tumor. This extended visit forces Amina to confront anew the death of her older brother Akhil, who committed suicide as a teenager, and to rekindle her romance with Jamie Anderson, whose sister was Akhil's girlfriend. The author has a wonderful flair for recreating the messy sprawl of family life, with all its joy, sadness, frustration, and anger. Although overlong, the novel, through its lovingly created and keenly observed characters, makes something new of the Indian immigrant experience in America.
Full of life, depth, and magic!
This amazing novel rings true on so many levels: if you've ever lost someone close to you, lost yourself, or found yourself in the midst of family mayhem, you will feel that truth very deeply...and at the same time, it's very entertaining and touching to just observe the story being told. What this book does so well is portray the intricacies of relationships--from those with one's family and friends to relating to the world at large, as well as the world within. This work will make you laugh, cry, and it will stick in your mind long after you're finished reading it.
The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing
This book is one of finest measurements of storytelling. I will never forget this book, Mira, never.
Dee Stewart Merrell
October 5, 2017