This books seems to be finding itself just as much as the protagonist. It starts off with some promise to a story but until halfway through the book all we find are declarations and a very slow character development. While it is interesting to learn more about the author (Paulo Coelho), and despite being an autobiography of sorts, I did not feel as connected to this book as a reader the way I have to his other work (for instance, The Zahir). The crux of the story comes to light during one scene which is an interview between the french father, Jacques and a journalist who wants to know more about the ‘hippie’ culture. I think what Paulo intended to say for this matter, he did so most truly in that one chapter. I read another review that describes this book as flat, and honestly I think that’s the best way to put it. I finished it because I couldn’t not finish a book, but was it worth the read? Eh…while it’s not entirely bad, one could give it a pass.
When you notice the ebb and flow of your own thoughts, you realise that they are a constant tumble of ideas and observations that are shoving for space to stay that one moment longer in your head before you are distracted by the next thought. In the space of your mind, you are unafraid of judgment or repercussions. On some days, you may even allow yourself to wade into the darker corners of your head, thinking of scenarios that would otherwise horrify you with their atrocious nature.
Jerry Pinto captures the casual tone of our minds and puts that voice on paper, showing us the truest version of a middle-class family in Mumbai, with no filter or even judgment on the good and bad. Things just are. He discusses topics like a famous sweet shop at the corner and the killing of one’s mother in the same tone. It is almost like the writing is unable to shy away from the underbelly of the protagonist’s life, quite like when we cannot always push away the thoughts that we “shouldn’t” be having.
Thus, the story is both intimate and funny, dark and sometimes as nonchalant as the four of them sitting around with nothing much going on. The language flows so easily, the writing seeming effortless even in its most significant or chaotic moments. This book is an act of such vulnerability that it was impossible for me not to be there, completely transported into the smoke-filled one-bedroom apartment listening to fragments of a story over the lifetime of the storyteller.
If there were any criticism that I had to afford, it would be with the characters on the sidelines. I would love to know more about Susan and Mae, and maybe even a little more about the mystery that was the Big Hoom. Overall, this is a book that I read in a matter of a few sittings and it was one that stuck with me long enough to avoid picking up a different book just to be able to mull this over a little longer.