Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Em and The Big Hoom” as Want to Read:
Em and The Big Hoom
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Em and The Big Hoom

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  5,152 ratings  ·  767 reviews
In a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen in Mahim, Bombay, through the last decades of the twentieth century, lived four love-battered Mendeses: mother, father, son and daughter. Between Em, the mother, driven frequently to hospital after her failed suicide attempts, and The Big Hoom, the father, trying to hold things together as best he could, they tried to be a family.
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Aleph Book Company
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Em and The Big Hoom, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Manav you could have given 4.5 out of 5. which is the same as 9 out of 10. :)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,152 ratings  ·  767 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Em and The Big Hoom
The tragedy of words like 'touching' and 'poignant' is that they have become hackneyed to the point they only give rise to skepticism if one spots them in a blurb. And yet I can't think of word choices more apt at the moment.

After having had nothing but disdain for the present crop of Indian Dan Brown wannabes and writers of mythological retellings and nauseating romances riddled with blatant sexism, featuring terminally ill fiancees and 'hot girl on campus' and what other pathetic genre tropes
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was ok

I've known her. Since the days when I was pudgy child panting from the summertime games, grabbing the large glass of cold crystalline water right off her benevolent hand. I've known her through those ritualistic morning temple walks with my grandmother buying radishes from her garden. When she birthed three lovely children gifting them with her naivety of grey irises, I've known her. But, she doesn't know who I am, not anymore. Not even my mother, at times, who when heavily pregnant with me reli
Paul Bryant
Aug 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels, abandoned

My reaction to this novel

Narrative version : okay that’s mildly amusing oh it’s all about the parents I see oh the mother’s a manic depressive and the dad’s not now it’s about how they got together zzzzzz

The blurbs say MUCH WILD COMEDY and HOWLINGLY FUNNY so I read half of it and got myself hooked up to one of those devices which measure the amount of fun you are having. So sensitive is this device, it can detect the merest twitch of facial musculature which may indicate a suppressed smirk or pl
Oct 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Four-and-a-half. I propped this book up on the water cooler because I did not want to stop reading it while filling my bottle. End of review.
Sairam Krishnan
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was a participant in the author's fiction writing workshop a couple of weeks ago in Bangalore, and one of the first things I noticed about him was how effortlessly funny he was. It made an impression then, and today as I read and finished ' Em & the Big Hoom', I'm again struck by the number of times he actually made me laugh in so dark a story.

It's a gorgeous book, in more ways than one. The story is beautifully told and the characters feel familiar, like we've always known them. This is the w
Depression, a sordid little word, one that conjures a thousand reactions from the people around you and the people you meet. A look of pity, more for the caregivers than for the patient; a sense of disdain, coming from the thought ‘what reasons does she have to be depressed about’; sympathy from strangers who just want to move on, in case it is contagious; helplessness of those who are primary caregivers to a depressed person, which comes with a deluge of guilt, pain, anger, sorrow and other emo ...more
Reading_ Tam_ Ishly
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
*this book should be put in the list of 'Most Difficult Books to Read'

'There seemed to be nothing I could do: no preventive medicine, no mental health vitamins, no mind exercises in the cool of the morning.'

The moment I picked up this book, I never thought that this book would make such a huge impact. I was sobbing uncontrollably towards the end. It's relatable, it's heartbreaking, it's phenomenal. It's real. It's unbreakable. It's deep and ugly and beautiful.

The main theme is mental health - t
This book is not for:
1. the weak minded
2. the prude
3. the juvenile

A powerful work dealing with a scary subject - the mind of a "mad" person.
The boy lives in a 1 BHK house in Mumbai with his maniac depressive beedi smoking mother Em, who doesn't consider discussing sex (or any other subject on earth) with her children a taboo, the stoic dependable father, Hoom , and the quiet elder sister, Susan.
Their lives are full of trials and tribulations as Em often tries to commit suicide, albeit unsuccessf
Sangeetha Ramachandran
A book to understand how matured you are mentally !
Garg Ankit
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Em and The Big Hoom is a hidden gem. The humor and gentleness with which it handles the ever serious and delicate topic of mental instability and depression is a welcome way to approach the subject in my opinion.

Jerry Pinto has vividly explained the condition of a person going through depression, and how it affects the life of people who are connected to the said person. He subtly mentions the 'dark' times when the person needs saving (from herself, the invisible ghosts, and the world in general
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
"She discovered with great delight that one does not love one's children just because they are one's children but because of the friendship formed while raising them": Marquez writes in Love in the time of Cholera.

I like to believe that that is the case. In Gujarat, where I grew up, it is a common practice to not use a respectful address for one's mother. You need not call her "aap" and often use "tu", more intimate in comparison, and it removes the gap that "aap" presupposes. Having lived my fo
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I don't remember when did I last see a book so beautifully designed. Since the time it arrived I couldn't move my eyes from it. That's how it attracts you first and then you pick it up to find that it is as beautiful inside as the cover promised. An extremely well-written book and Pinto is easily one of the best Indian authors I have read. ...more
Yeah yeah, go on. You know you have your 5 stars already, don't you?

Honestly, it's hard to find fault with a book like 'Em and the Big Hoom'. Review to follow, probably or probably not. I usually find myself reluctant to do reviews of books I love, for I fear my review won't do justice to their brilliance.

For now, all I can say is that Jerry Pinto's debut novel is easily one of the best books I've read so far this year - perhaps it would make the top five in my year-end list. Highly recommended

Inserted within the prose effortlessly is one of the most simple statements - "It's such a mess, that's why it's madness". The book had such a strong after-effect that I did not dare write a review till I could shake off a bit of the heaviness.

Enter the mad world of Em who is Em with an exclamation mark to her family. She is the uncouth beedi smoking manic depressive mother. In her good days, she lives life grand and on her bad days she is suicidal. The big hoom or angel ears is the admirable pi
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very unusual story – that of Em (Imelda) and the Big Hoom (Augustine) and their children. The story is told by their son – part of a family who has struggled in life and has just about stays afloat all the time. The story shuffles between the present and the past starting from when Em and the Big Hoom met and decided to get married.

Em, now battles mental illness (bipolar / schizophrenia) and keeps trying to take her own life. She however retains much of her ready wit and sharp tongue.
Saif Sayed
"You can cry in public as long as you don not sob. Tears are transparent. If you’re walking fast, if the sun’s too strong, no one notices. Sobs intrude. They push their way into people’s consciousness. They feel duty-bound to ask what has happened. "

- Em and The Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto.

A beautiful novel portraying uncommon themes, leaving the reader profoundly moved. A Roman Catholic Goan middle class family living in Bombay in a 1BHK. Their lives are full of tribulations, since Em is unwell. Sh
Ravi Gangwani
- Sometimes I would see myself as a book with bad binding. You know, like one more reader, one more face-down on the bed and I was going to spill everything, lose control.

-I didn't go to bookshops to buy. That's a little bourgeois. I went because they were civilized places. It made me happy there were people who sat down and wrote and wrote and wrote and there were other people who devoted their lives to making those words into books. It was lovely. Like standing in the middle of civilization.

Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book came to me as a birthday gift. It had me with its dark purple cover and the title ‘Em and the big Hoom’. But I was skeptical, why read a book on mental illness? Isn’t it something we all fear? Mental illness is something that invokes fear, worry, despair, pain, sympathy and emotions that help us best keep a distance from it. Em and the Big Hoom is about minimizing that distance and embracing a condition of life, however harsh it might be, with love and a sense of selflessness. This is ...more
Diane S ☔
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Absolutely love the title of this little gem of a book. Bombay, India and a family of four, the son in his twenties, his younger sister, his dad who they call the big hoom and his mother, whose bi-polar illness has effected them all.

Love the way this was written, humorously, truthfully but not meant to send the reader into pangs of anguish, Just a young man, concerned that he may develop this illness, asking questions and seeking answers.
So much of their lives revolved around the mother's illne
Jyotsna Hariharan
I'm temporarily relocating out of the country in a few weeks. Aside from all the usual chaos and insanity, I'm also in the process of picking out the books - the actual paper books- which will make the journey with me across the Pacific. With three weeks to go, I thought I had it all figured - that my list was locked and loaded.

But boy, this book. Let's just say I have a nice little Em and The Big Hoom- sized niche carved into my suitcase and I will beat the shit out of anything that wants to cl
Vandana Sinha
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
The story is about the Mendes family - Imelda (Em), Augustine (The Big Hoom), the daughter Susan and the unnamed son- their struggles as they cope with their mothers bipolar disorder, her depression and her frequent attempts to take her life. The narrative is non- linear, deliberately shorn of any emotion and understated. The attempts of the family as they attempt to lead a normal life even as they are swept into the vortex of blackness, is truly heart rending. The muted pain and the abhorrence ...more
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Em and the Big Hoom sensitively carves our the life of the Mendes family - Imelda, Em for her kids, Augustine, aka The Big Hoom, their son, the unnamed narrator and daughter, Susan. Em's manic-depression kept the family at the edge of threshold; it seemed like a new beginning everytime - a beginning that knew no end in a closely-knit home. The book chronicles the lives affected and surrounded by the matriarch's bipolar disorder. It is tautly humorous at times and sad throughout. ...more
It is naïve to believe that the world is full of sunshine and rainbows, especially in the current conditions. But it is an altogether different kind of naivety to believe that dysfunctional families are a rarity. While portrayal of Indian families on the big screen or television or novels mostly paint the picture of all-encompassing love in nauseatingly unrealistic ways, families in real life strive as hard as possible to appear ‘normal’ in front of their peers. Psychological and emotional debil ...more
Samata Joshi
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What started as a journey of a book from an author I have immense respect and admiration for, became like one of those trips you take down to the nearest sea-shore. Trips where you end up staring into the sea for a long time, moving forward to feel the sand dissolve under your feet as the water recedes. You wonder marvelously at the waves, somewhere far beyond the reach of your tranquil visit. You laugh with the sea, you ogle at it, throw something at it, take something from it, embrace it, be a ...more
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I had to create a new shelf on Goodreads for this book - family. Because that is what Em and The Big Hoom is about. Family, in all it's fragility and pain. But Jerry Pinto has somehow made a painful sad story into one of love and hope, of accepting our human-ness (for want of a better word) and all that it entails, even at the cost of one's sanity. It doesn't make you sad, this book. It just leaves this warm fuzzy hangover of a feeling that you knew the Mendeses as intimately as the author himse ...more
~~Poulomi Sylphrena Tonk$~~
5 Em and The Big Hoom stars!

After persistent failures at finding a book by an Indian author quite to my liking, Em and the Big Hoom happened to me. I was dubious about it at first. Maybe that was why I didn’t consider reading the synopsis even. So in my blank mindscape, the very title incited in me multifarious images, in fact some featuring magical realms, I admit unabashedly. *smirk*

Jokes aside, this is nothing like it. Let’s get to the review proper.

Books about depression leave you enqui
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
To put it in a single line, it is about how a small nuclear family copes with the mom's mental illness. But the brilliance of the novel is that it has been written in a light-hearted manner with subtle humour without making a mockery of the illness nor making caricatures of the characters. Even serious episodes have been written with a lighter touch. Em is the mom and the big Hoom is the dad. The narrator is the son and his sister being the other character. It is mostly about Em, a beedi-smoking ...more
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Heart touching traumatic story of a mentally ill and extremely depressed mother.

Enjoyed the ever wandering dark humorous enigmatic and uninhibited conversations of Em.... the unique courtship followed by rock solid support and care given by Big Hoom tolerating all the sufferings... and the flashback narrations in form of diary entries, letters and recollections.

Kudos to a great debut work by Jerry Pinto. Going to read all of his upcoming works.
I purchased this without a lot of research, and have misinterpreted what it was - I expected a (albeit light) multi-generational Indian story. It sort of it this, but essentially it revolves around Em (Imelda Mendes), and her mental health problems, and her relationship with her husband Augustine Mendes (the Big Hoom), her daughter Susan and her (un-named in this book) son, who is the narrator.

Pinto has woven a present time narrative with a dipping back into family history that reads well, albei
Pooja Singh
"Love is a hollow word which seems at home in song lyrics and greeting cards until you fall in love and discover it’s disconcerting power. Depression means nothing more than the blues, commercially packaged angst, a hole in the ground; until you find it’s black weight settled inside your mother’s chest, disrupting her breathing, leaching her days, and yours, of color and the nights of rest."
-Jerry Pinto, Em, and the Big hoom

"Em and the Big hoom" is a story by Jerry Pinto of the depression-struc
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Cobalt Blue
  • Ghachar Ghochar
  • The Illicit Happiness of Other People
  • Milk Teeth
  • Poonachi: Or the Story of a Black Goat
  • Bombay Balchao
  • Undertow
  • The Adivasi Will Not Dance
  • Kintsugi: A Novel
  • Estuary
  • Prelude to a Riot
  • The Liberation of Sita
  • There’s Gunpowder in the Air
  • One Part Woman
  • Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer
  • Seeing Like a Feminist
  • A Book of Simple Living
  • Latitudes of Longing
See similar books…
Jerry Pinto is a Mumbai-based Indian writer of poetry, prose and children's fiction in English, as well as a journalist. His noted works include, Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb (2006) which won the Best Book on Cinema Award at the 54th National Film Awards, Surviving Women (2000) and Asylum and Other Poems (2003). His first novel Em and The Big Hoom was published in 2012. ...more

News & Interviews

Summer is perfect for plenty of things: mojitos, sleeping with the window fan on, and sprawling out with a hot romance novel (in a heavily...
7 likes · 0 comments
“I didn't go to bookshops to buy. That's a little bourgeois. I went because they were civilized places. It made me happy there were people who sat down and wrote and wrote and wrote and there were other people who devoted their lives to making those words into books. It was lovely. Like standing in the middle of civilization.” 70 likes
“If there was one thing I feared as I was growing up . . .
No, that's stupid. I feared hundreds of things: the dark, the death of my father, the possibility that I might rejoice the death of my mother, sums involving vernier calipers, groups of schoolboys with nothing much to do, death by drowning.
But of all these, I feared the most the possibility that I might go mad too.”
More quotes…