At the start of Mira Jacob's beautiful debut, "The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing," Amina Eapen's mother summons her home to Albuquerque, New Mexico, claiming that her father is acting strangely (though it's possible the real reason Kamala wants her daughter home is so she can set her up with a doctor). When Amina arrives, however, she learns that her father's condition is more serious than her mother let on, and bears some connection to the feud 20 years earlier with the family back in Salem, India, that permanently estranged Thomas Eapen from his mother and brother.
Even as it deals with weighty, dark subjects like loss and grief, and the struggles of an immigrant family, Jacob's novel is light and optimistic, unpretentious and refreshingly witty. Jacob has created characters with evident care and treats them with gentleness even as they fight viciously with each other. Her prose is sharp and true and deeply funny. The book is 500 pages long and had I the luxury of time I would have read it in one sitting. This is the literary fiction I will be recommending to everyone this summer, especially those who love multigenerational, multicultural family sagas.
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"The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing"By Mira Jacob
Random House, 512 pages, $26, mirajacob.com/