Read The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob Online


Spanning India in the 70s to New Mexico in the 80s to Seattle in the 90s, The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is a winning, irreverent debut novel about a family wrestling with its future and its past.When brain surgeon Thomas Eapen decides to cut short a visit to his mother's home in India in 1979, he sets into motion a series of events that will forever haunt him and hisSpanning India in the 70s to New Mexico in the 80s to Seattle in the 90s, The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is a winning, irreverent debut novel about a family wrestling with its future and its past.When brain surgeon Thomas Eapen decides to cut short a visit to his mother's home in India in 1979, he sets into motion a series of events that will forever haunt him and his wife, Kamala; their intellectually precocious son, Akhil; and their watchful daughter, Amina. Now, twenty years later, in the heat of a New Mexican summer, Thomas has begun having bizarre conversations with his dead relatives and it's up to Amina-a photographer in the midst of her own career crisis-to figure out what is really going on. But getting to the truth is far harder than it seems. From Thomas's unwillingness to talk, to Kamala's Born Again convictions, to run-ins with a hospital staff that seems to know much more than they let on, Amina finds herself at the center of a mystery so thick with disasters that to make any headway at all, she has to unravel the family's painful past....

Title : The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780812994780
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 512 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing Reviews

  • Mira Jacob
    2019-01-28 19:37

    ...but I might be a bit biased.

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-01-22 19:21

    We arrive in this world connected, to people, to places, to cultures. Just because we move on with our lives, emotionally, intellectually, or geographically, this does not mean that our connections are all left behind.In Mira Jacob’s debut novel, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, her characters all struggle with connections, to each other, to their past, to their culture, and ultimately to themselves. For some that struggle includes a connection to reality. The story looks at three places, India, Albuquerque and Seattle, and three times, the late 70s, early 80s and 1998. When we meet the Eapen family, in 1979, they are visiting the place and family they had left, in Salem, India. Thomas Eapen, a surgeon, had sought a better life for his wife and children in America. Home still has power, though, and his mother, also a physician, tries her best to persuade her son to remain. We meet the family members who had remained, and see some of the strains that might lead one to seek a life elsewhere. The motherland still has a hold, though, and Thomas’s wife Kamala, would like nothing more than to remain.Amina Eapen is a photographer, working in Seattle in 1998. She had been a successful photojournalist, but has stepped back from that for reasons I will not go into here, and is now shooting events. Amina has a gift for capturing telling moments and is our camera into the history and struggles of the Eapen family. Dr. Thomas Eapen is seriously ill, seeing things that are not there, talking to people who are long dead. It has affected his work. When his wife calls Amina, she returns home to Albuquerque. Eapen’s illness is the maguffin for examining the experience of the Eapen family. In addition to the strain of emigrating from India and constructing a new life on the other side of the world, the Eapens suffered a huge loss. We learn early on that Amina’s brother, Akhil, died young. The story goes to the early 1980s, where we see Amina and her brother in school, beginning to have relationships, struggling to grow up. Akhil shows some odd behavior, sleeping for vast stretches, falling asleep in inappropriate situations, believing that something glorious is in store for him if only he can complete a particular task. It is not entirely clear whether this is eccentricity or a condition, and neurosurgeon Thomas dismisses it.The author - from her web siteSo, there is a bit of mystery here. What happened to Akhil? What is going on with Thomas? It also takes some time to learn why it was that Amina stepped away from photojournalism. It is in peeling back the layers of those stories that we learn about the characters. There is a bit of romance as well, but, thankfully, it does not at all take away from the story. While this is not a laugh-out-loud sort of read, there are plenty of light, even delightful moments that will make you smile. Of course, there are very sad ones as wellMuch is made of attachment to place. When Thomas cedes his ownership rights to a family property in India there is a direct connection to be made to a story to which Amina is connected, of Native Americans in the northwest ceding land to the extant society in return for the hope that a large amount of cash can improve their lives. There are also smaller scale elements relating to territory.To live in the Eapen’s house was to acknowledge the sharpness of invisible borders, the separations that had divided it like two countries since 1983. It had been years since Amina had seen her mother wade into the yellow light of her father’s porch, and as far as she knew, Thomas had never once crossed the gate into Kamala’s garden. One of the connections made is in the similarities between the old world and the new, between generations. Just as Thomas’s mother schemes to try to keep him in India, Amina’s mother schemes to try to keep her in New Mexico. Just as Thomas’s brother spoke to people who were not there in India, Thomas holds his own conversations with the dead in America. Both Thomas and Akhil balk at the limitations inherent in their conditions. Food is used as a way for old and new to connect Cooking was a talent of her mother’s that Amina often thought of as evolutionary, a way for Kamala to survive herself with friendships intact. Like plumage that expanded to rainbow an otherwise unremarkable bird. Kamala’s ability to transform raw ingredients into sumptuous meals brought her the kind of love her personality on its own might have repelled. Bonds are made through feeding as a way of loving. Another element is secrecy. Amina maintains a private cache of her special photographs, non-commercial ones that epitomize her skill at catching important moments. Thomas keeps his medical situation secret, and a few other things besides. And that ties in to feeling like an outsider, whether one is a native in a land now dominated by European invaders, or a new arrival in America, whether one is a black sheep in a family or an ostracized teen at school. Amina has a wonderful relationship with her cousin, the wonderfully named Dimple, and there is a supportive, non-parental adult, the cool aunt, Sanji, who is able to bridge the gap between the young and the not so young, offering understanding and support, along with adult wisdom. As for the sleepwalking element, there is a character who literally sleepwalks, and his connection to dancing is revealed at the end. Thomas’s visions might be seen as a form of sleepwalking. Akhil has big issues with sleep, but sleepwalking is not among them. And there are other characters who see things that are not there, which may be a form of sleepwalking. There is a mention in the book of a sleepwalker’s disregard for her surroundings. It is unclear if the author is suggesting that we are all sleepwalkers in a way, or that we should pay more attention to our effects on the world, or should attend to our visions. Did not get it. Doesn't matter though. There is plenty to go with here, even if one is not able to cross every thematic t or dot every metaphorical i.Gripes? I would have liked to have seen more, well anything actually, on the Eapen family’s experience when they had first moved to the USA. We only get to see them once they are already settled.Amina is engaging, definitely worth caring about. Family is family is family, whether the family in question is from India or Indiana, and you are sure to recognize some folks in Amina’s clan who remind you of members of yours. The story is interesting. One gets a strong sense of the warmth and humor as well as the struggles inherent in these multigenerational family connections. Awake or asleep, the music is playing here, and it wouldn't hurt to step out onto the dance floor for a while. I received this book through GR’s First Reads program – thanks guys!Review posted – April 25, 2014Pub date – July 2014=============================EXTRA STUFFMira Jacob co-authored Kenneth Cole’s autobio, wrote VH-1’s Pop-Up Video, and was a co-founder of Pete’s Reading Series, at Pete’s Candy Store, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a venue where authors have been reading their work to appreciative audiences for over a decade. She is married to academy award nominated documentarian, Jed Rothstein. They live, with their son, in Brooklyn.Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pagesThe Eapen family are Syrian or Saint Thomas Christians. This Christian sect was news to me. The wiki entry is pretty interesting.

  • PorshaJo
    2019-02-14 20:22

    Rating 3.5The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is a tale of the Eapen family. At the core is Amina, the daughter, telling her story. Her father, Thomas, is ill and her mother, Kamala, convinces her to come home. We also hear about her brother Akhil. The story is told over many years alternating back and forth in time, hearing the past and present stories of this family. It also switches locales from New Mexico, Seattle, and India. There are many family members and others that make appearances within the book.Thomas is a brain surgeon who is having bizarre episodes where he talking to dead relatives. Very detailed, in-depth conversions. You hear the stories of these relatives and how they passed but you hear in great detail what is going on with Thomas. It is quite the sad story but there is laughter also. Kamala is funny, calling everyone 'dummy' and just not really getting the American ways or slang. When the story of the family from India is told, I laughed so hard so many times. But there is such sorrow too that at one point, I almost cried.I did have a few issues with this one....and perhaps this is just showing my age. I listened to this one via audio which the author narrates. She spoke very fast and it took me some time to get used to it. I have a hard time with accents and must focus and it just seemed so fast that I was rewinding quite a bit initially. Amina...started driving me nuts with always answering questions or statements when talking with others 'WHAT'...'wait WHAT'. Constantly. Again, showing my age here.I also think it could have been trimmed a bit. Sometimes it was a bit long and rambling.Anyway, a look at one Indian family but not so much Indian culture. An interesting story that I'm glad I read. I do look forward to more books from this author.

  • Chris Blocker
    2019-02-04 16:44

    I don't remember what I was thinking when I requested an advanced reader's copy of The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing. I know when it showed up in the mail, however, I was wondering why I had wanted this book in the first place. The premise and the cover no longer enticed me. I set it aside and put off reading it until the last minute. I believe the fates must have been looking out for me when I originally requested this book because it was great.One of my concerns was that this was going to be yet another story of the Indian diaspora in America. That's a great story and all, but it's been played out. There are certainly elements of that story here, but they're minor and it's not the focus. The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is a delightfully-written story of career, family, and destiny—all those things that make people love Star Wars. Seriously, people should be standing in line to read this book. The prose is fantastic. The story remains interesting and poignant through all its 500 pages. It's wonderful, and it does so much. Mira Jacob goes back and forth between places and time, and she does so without a hiccup. There are so many subplots going on, yet they all fit together and are not only terrific in their own right, but relevant to the larger story. It flows so seamlessly that you have to applaud the author and her editors. The characters are detailed. The dialogue is witty. The story itself has moments of humor and heartbreak. I really enjoyed this book.The biggest problem I foresee this novel facing is that it is being published in a year with so many great novels. If it doesn't get the right publicity, doesn't hit the target audience, doesn't attract enough prepub attention, this debut may be ignored on the lists of the year's best. I'm here to make sure that doesn't happen. Take note, this is one of the most compelling, breathtaking, and lyrical books to be published this year. It's full of life. Put it on your to-read list now and if you want to thank me, you can do so later.

  • Elyse
    2019-02-04 14:16

    Update: on sale today for $1.99 I met the author - in Austin - after I had read and reviewed this. Much was inspired by family experiences of her own. The Indian Food dishes in the novel make you ready for a spicy meal yourself. Definitely worth $1.99 The STORYTELLING of "The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing" fantastic. This 500 page book is a multigenerational saga --It had triumphs, humor, grief, delicious Chutneys and sumptuous meals, and characters, all easy to relate to, (from India to the States). Its easy to fall intimately under the spell of 'the private-world-of-reading' --(the rest of you can go away now) --The family bonds in this story are powerful. We feel connected with all of them.I won this book from Goodreads give-a-way. THANK YOU!!!!Congrats to Mira Jacob on her first novel! Pretty miraculous! I do have a 'few' comments --(yet I fully enjoyed this book)Some of the sentences in Mira Jacob's book felt awkward. I was not sure if I was struggling with cultural differences or not. Words that were chosen to describe a situation did not flow effortlessly. Yet the story --in its 'entire' was wonderful. Monster's dentures?, Jogging Meatballs?, "Carnivorously"???? -- is 'not' a word I'd use when looking at a bride. A question that stayed in my mind was --Will people 'pick' this 500 page book? Books compete with one another. I was surprised to see such a long book by a first time author. My fear (for the author and publisher) --is its a 'risk' being this long --Stephen King and Ken Follett can write books as long as they want. but a new author? This book was GREAT! ---but could it have been as good with 200 'less' pages? I hope people do take the time to read this 'gem'.Its a story that that feels real. This story matters!

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2019-02-11 18:23

    The author’s note, at the end of the book, echoes the overarching themes:…”what it means, as an immigrant, to make a life in a stolen country.”This luminous, addictive, page-turning, character-driven, and first-rate storytelling held me in its thrall from beginning to end. Yes, it had echoes of Jhumpa Lahiri (by virtue of evoking the Indian-American experience), and it also at times echoes Richard Ford’s CANADA, as well as Richard Russo, John Irving, and any number of master storytellers that tell an epic story about family. I applaud Mira Jacob’s decade-long investment in writing this book, as it gave me a few days of unadulterated bliss. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the Eapen family when I turned the last page; at times, I felt them brushing against my arm, cupping my elbow, and feeding me samosas and chutney.The nuclear family here is Thomas Eapen, a neurosurgeon, Kamala, his wife, their intellectually gifted son, Akhil, and their photographer daughter, Amina. Only Amina was born in America. Through most of the novel, they live in Albuquerque, although Amina, as an adult, now lives in Seattle and works as an events photographer, after leaving the serious business of photojournalism. The novel alternates back and forth between the early 80’s and 1998, but the offstage history is woven in seamlessly. I don’t want to reveal more of the story than is told in the book jacket. There’s a lot of discovery that is meant for the reader to unearth. And, even though a tragedy is revealed early on (in a handful of words), the narrative keeps you on tenterhooks until you actually get there, hundreds of pages later.This isn’t a book with political polemics or sermons about social justice—but there is a lot of delicious Indian food that made me hungry. It’s a domestic drama about a family dealing with love, loss, adjustment, flux, sleepwalking, and candid photos—a very human drama that is also witty and sharply observed. It moves swiftly, a charismatic, unputdownable tale told with levity and moving intensity. Jacob’s prose is astute and intrepid, the kind of sentences that get into your blood, and is laced with smooth and cinematic dialogue.If I could give this 6 stars, I would.

  • Camie
    2019-02-14 14:20

    Thirty year old Amina is called away from her photography job in Seattle by her mother Kamala who has growing concerns that something is seriously wrong with her father. Thomas, her father , is a brilliant neurosurgeon who years before relocated the family ( which then included his wife and young son Ahkil ) from India to New Mexico. Upon arriving home Amina finds much more than she bargained for. Thomas is indeed acting unusual doing such things as conversing with dead relatives, leaving Kamala beside herself with worry and cooking up a storm. There is also an actual sleepwalker who causes big problems for this family.This is a beautifully written family saga which spans from the family's past in India to their present in New Mexico, with glimpses of all the times between. One reviewer called this book "emotionally bountiful" and I agree, although I would add that it is also a "bountifully magical" read. 5 stars

  • Annet
    2019-02-16 17:27

    Wow,..... what a book and what a colourful characterful family...This story will stay with me for a long time I'm sure...Last pages (and other parts of the book) brought tears and tears to my eyes, could not avoid. Beautiful, melancholy, sad, funny, tragic, loving and highly recommended.

  • Oriana
    2019-01-25 15:27

    I slept on Mira Jacob for awhile. I was vaguely aware that she existed, but I felt no particular compulsion to seek out her books. Then I read her essays "37 Difficult Questions From My Mixed-Race Son" and "Here’s What I’m Telling My Brown Son About Trump’s America," and before I even finished weeping, I ordered this book. Friends, it is unbelievably, jaw-droppingly fantastic.I am going to say something crazy, but even after a week of retrospection, I believe this is the best book I've read since The Goldfinch — which we all know I loved so much that it ruined me for all the rest of books forever. And yet! Though this is not so much like Tartt's masterpiece, it had the same deeply immersive pull, gave me the same charged, magnetic feeling that whatever I was doing was utterly irrelevant compared to getting back onto the couch (or the stoop, or the subway, or the line for the ATM) and inhaling this book into my blood. So. Here is the story of Amina Eapen, first-generation Indian American living in Seattle and working as a wedding photographer after a Bad Thing happened that upended her photojournalism career. We join her as she receives a call from her Ma in New Mexico, who obliquely suggests that something is up with Dad — so obliquely, in a way so out of character for this intensely overbearing mother, that Amina pretty much drops everything and flies home lickety-split to figure out what's going on. From there the story runs on parallel tracks, going backward in time and eastward in space to Amina's childhood and her last-ever visit to India, where there was a Great Family Blowout that would ultimately lead to tragedy; and forward into the next few months while we figure out what's up with dad, and on the way learn everything about this incredible family, their hopes and fears, their tears and triumphs, their deep though often staggeringly badly expressed love for one another, the lengths, both uplifting and detrimental, to which they will go to keep each other close.This is a book made up of moments, beautiful crystalline moments like so many strung marbles — moments of tenderness, of rage, of joy, of camaraderie, of despair. The time Amina and her father build a janky slingshot called a Raccooner. The time Amina's narcoleptic brother falls asleep at the wheel and nearly rolls them onto a rushing highway. The time Amina runs into a disliked girl from high school at the mall years later and has the most cringingly awkward conversation. The time an aunt catches Amina and her brother smoking on the roof and heaves herself, pendulous bosom and all, right out the window to join them. The way a young Indian cousin reacts when Amina's parents bring him Nikes from America. The way the Eapens' patched-together "family" of other Indian Americans solves every problem by cooking astounding amounts of food for one another. The way they all talk, with this perfectly crisp Indian-British English, all full of Chee!s and Nah?s and "one" instead of "a" and so many funny bits of bilingual slang. The way we revisit onto our children the sins visited upon us by our parents, and the ways, a generation later, these mistakes can ultimately be (at least somewhat) rectified. Also, to be clear, this is a book full of devastations. There are deaths and fires and cancer and mental unravelings that are as harrowing as the gorgeous parts are gorgeous. I cried many times over the course of this saga, and while typically that kind of sorrow would have made me quit a book forever, by then I loved these characters SO MUCH that I was there for it, I would never leave them in their times of tragedy, I would hold their hands and hold their gazes and follow them, as they followed one another, heads held high, into whatever abyss awaited us. I don't know what else to say. This was simply a marvel, pitch-perfect family saga full of the most complexly human characters trying and failing and trying again to love each other, to save each other, to be there for each other no matter how much it takes from them to do so. I love this family and this book so much I, cannot believe I don't get to read about them anymore.

  • Jenny
    2019-02-08 20:43

    A story about life, a story about death. Simply good.

  • Josh
    2019-01-29 13:42

    This book is to be savored. It's the kind of novel where the only thing that prevents you from being sad about being closer to the end every time you turn the page is that you're totally wrapped up in the narrative. Although it deals with dark themes honestly, it's also a book that's overwhelmingly optimistic and cheerful (and funny!) -- a reminder to embrace life's beauty even or especially in situations when it's easiest to ignore.By the time you finish it, you feel like you've made a friend who's made you a better person. You also start getting slightly jealous of all the people who haven't yet discovered it and are soon going to have the experience of reading it for the first time.

  • Dianne
    2019-01-27 18:41

    A good debut novel about family dynamics. A 3.5 for me - a little overlong and rambly, but there are some poignant and eloquent observations about grief that will ring true if you have experienced the loss of a loved one, especially an immediate family member.

  • Jill
    2019-02-03 19:15

    As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”This line is certainly true for Amina, a once promising photojournalist who was traumatized by the events leading to her most famous picture – a Native American activist deliberately plunging over a bridge. Since then, Amina has been navigating her own bridges into adulthood. At 30 years old, she works as a wedding photographer, deals with her dysfunctional parents Kamala and Thomas, and struggles to integrate core tragedies of her past.With a keen eye towards the messiness of family interactions, Ms. Jacob weaves her narrative back and forth from Seattle – where Amina currently lives – to Albuquerque (the home of her parents) and to India, the land of their ancestry. Some might embrace the overused term “immigrant experience”, but for me, this was the experience of any family who struggled with ties that do not let go and relationships that cannot be forgotten. The novel – tenderly written and often page-turning – tackles the themes of familial bonds, grief survival and self-forgiveness. There is not only plenty of food (Kamala never ceases to create sumptuous meals even during the most stressful occasions) but also food for thought in this beautifully-written novel. At times, Kamala and Thomas are written a little too broadly and comically; for the most part, though, the characters are authentic and lovingly rendered.And the sleepwalking? Yes, one of the characters quite literally sleepwalks, but the broader theme might be how we all must eventually stop sleepwalking and take hold of our visions. It’s a most delightful debut. 4.5 stars

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry
    2019-02-14 13:43

    I won an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program, and I’m so grateful, because I love discovering talented debut authors; Mira Jacob is clearly among the best.I can honestly say this book – weighing in at about 500 pages – was worth every word. That’s something I can’t claim of the longer books I’ve read this year. Jacob took the time and the pages to develop realistic, flawed-but-lovable, three-dimensional characters. I can’t say enough about the character development and realism of the dialogue. (Oh my. Kamala, the main character's mother … the author portrayed her so well through dialogue, alone -- Kamala's continual calling of everyone “Dummy,” in a somewhat affectionate but also terse manner spoke volumes of her character. And then there were Kamala’s physical reactions and the author's subtle descriptions of Kamala's body language … This truly is "show-don't-tell" at its best).The story unfolds with an adult Amina and her ‘cousin’ Dimple, who both moved from New Mexico to Seattle (Amina a photographer, and Dimple running an art gallery). We sense that they are trying to find their place in the world, not only as the children of immigrants, but also as young, independent women caught between cultures. Through alternating chapters that take us from the present back to India in the 1970s when Amina was young, then to New Mexico in the 1980s with a high-school-aged Amina, we learn of her family’s cultural struggles, personal struggles, and triumphs leading up to the present day story. Those chapters reveal so much about the family's dynamics and personalities.I don’t want to reveal too much about the storyline itself, for fear of ruining it for the reader, so suffice it to say that, for me, the simplified essence of this story is: family. Yet this novel is far from simple. While it focuses on a father-daughter relationship at the surface, it is also about those people we adopt as family – who become a part of our ‘tribe.’ It’s about the pull and tug of familial ties – the heartbreak, the love, the laughter, the sadness. This book is a lovely literary accomplishment also containing themes about “place” and connections to the past. This is the kind of story I love, as it allows the reader to read for story only, or to embark on those fun “treasure hunts” I enjoy so much, seeking metaphor, symbolism and thematic connections that ARE there if only the reader will look. What’s more, even though this is a “quiet” story, the tempo is heightened by a series of ‘mysteries’ that will entice you to keep flipping pages. Perhaps my biggest accolades are reserved for Jacob’s gift of writing incredibly poignant scenes – not overstated or overly sentimental – yet heart-tugging. Toward the end of the story, I can’t count how many times the realism of the scenes, the true emotional truth of them, snuck up on me, pooling in my eyes. I’d recommend this book to anyone who appreciates literary fiction, but even for those who are drawn to YA (since many of the scenes are written from the teenaged Amina’s perspective). I hope this book does well and continues to earn praise; it is so deserving!

  • K
    2019-02-09 20:19

    This book renewed my love for fiction.Over the past few years, disappointed by an overwhelming number of mediocre novels, I've increasingly turned to non-fiction. My rationale was, even if the book is mediocre at least I'll learn something; what's the point of spending time with a mediocre book that's just a story someone invented? This book, though, reminded me of why I used to be a fiction addict.I don't want to oversell it. It was a long book, and the narrative occasionally sagged. Not every detail of every interaction was necessary, and thankfully the romance was peripheral because it left me pretty cold.Now that I got that disclaimer over with, I will rhapsodize. This book pulled me in completely. I felt like I was right there with the characters, feeling what they were feeling. The writing was great, the themes natural and multilayered, the characterization dimensional and interesting. The plot wasn't exactly fast-paced, but it wasn't non-existent either. I loved the family members. I loved their relationships and interactions. I loved their dysfunction, painfully real but not over the top and clearly interwoven with genuine love. For once I'm not alone here (4+ goodreads star rating, actually well-deserved!), which is also nice. So I feel comfortable saying, though not a perfect book, highly recommended.

  • Cosima
    2019-01-28 18:18

    In "The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing", a family's painful past alternates with the present as they struggle with a developing crisis. Yes the following line is overused but, well, it's true: I wanted to like this book as much as everyone else but I didn't.The best thing about this book is that the family's dynamics are so genuine. As awkward as the relationships become at times, they are full of real emotions and highlight the various facets of the immigrant experience. I especially enjoyed Kamala's character, the well-meaning but overbearing and stubborn mother who is constantly spouting endearing Indianisms.My main problem with the book is that it is way too long and I often found myself bored with the excruciating details of the lives of these characters. I don't feel like enough happened in between the first and last pages to justify the length of the book. It was in need of editing to cut out some of the superfluousness. I also found Amina's romantic relationship kind of dry and contrived. There was zero chemistry that I could discern so I couldn't buy into it.Others may enjoy this novel more and find it at once heartrending yet cozy and amusing, especially those who lived through the '90s or who can relate to the immigrant experience. For me, in some ways it was charming but it also dragged. It's not what I'd call a page-turner.

  • Alena
    2019-01-29 16:41

    “There are small blessings, tiny ones that come unbidden and make a hard day one sigh lighter.”Good writing is one such blessing. I ordered this book based on my mom’s rave and spent a wonderful few days entranced by Mira Jacob’s wonderful debut novel. It’s the rare book that continues to get better as it goes on, but in this case I couldn’t put the story down once I was into the second half.The plot is nothing remarkably new. Amina is a thirty-something who has to return home to deal with a sick parent. Of course her family is fractured, with buried secrets, tragedy and misunderstandings; but on top of the predictable, Jacobs layers an Indian immigrant’s story. Then, she goes a step further, through Amina’s career as a photographer, to highlight the ideas of isolation and belongingness. Without being overwrought or sappy, she breathes life into this family and into her themes in a compelling way.“It wasn’t that she doubted their love or intentions, but the weight of that love would be no small thing.”I understood Amina, but more importantly, I liked her. And I adored all the surrounding characters, especially her parents. They start out as the typical stereotypes of overbearing mother and ambitious professional father, but their stories evolve to become complex and emotionally touching.“Why is it that fathers so often ensure the outcome they are trying to avoid? Is their need to dominate so much stronger than their instinct to protect? Did Thomas know, Amina wondered as she watched him, that he had just done the human equivalent of a lion sinking his teeth into his own cub?”Amina’s relationship with her parents held special resonance for me as they faced many quality-of-life decisions. What is real? What is right? Who controls the outcome? All of these questions (and more) come to play in very honest ways, bringing me to tears on several occasions.Across the board, Jacobs does a terrific job of fleshing out every character she introduces, admirable given the fact that this novel stretches almost 500 pages, three decades and two continents. As the story comes to its beautiful ending, I found myself completely satisfied.Highly recommend.Read alikes:The LowlandThe NamesakeSister of My HeartAnd the Mountains EchoedAnatomy of a Disappearance

  • Cher
    2019-02-01 16:16

    3.5 stars - It was really good.Started slow, middle was fantastic, ended slowly. An enjoyable story with strong characterization that addresses assimilation across two generations within a family, but there is not anything particularly new here and I wish the pacing would have been more even throughout the novel.-------------------------------------------Favorite Quote: There are small blessings, tiny ones that come unbidden and make the hard day one sigh lighter.First Sentence: It was a fever, a hot rage of words.

  • Jessica Woodbury
    2019-02-03 13:32

    This is one of those books that I had before publication but didn't get to. There are many books like that, and I only end up reading a small number of them once they're out in the world. I heard a lot of good things about this book, and kept it in my mind as something I should check out. Ultimately I was tempted by the audiobook, which the author reads herself. I love that kind of audio experience because I know the author reads things as they're intended. I enjoyed this book very deeply. Even though Amina is the kind of character who can frustrate me a lot, that person who does very little and spends most of the book stuck in stasis, ultimately the story of her family sucked me in. This is a book about loss and grief, but also about the way families can be pushed apart by love that is too fierce and demanding, or by love that stays too quiet below the surface. The structure, which flashes back from 1998 where Amina visits her parents to her childhood, worked really well for me. It did that thing I love, where a book slowly unfurls its story and characters, lets me explore them deeply, but lets me know it may be hiding something that I don't know about yet. The audio is excellent. Honestly, I would have assumed it was read by a professional narrator if I hadn't known better. I enjoy hearing accents in audiobooks, it helps me feel more in touch with the characters, and the voices of Thomas and Kamala in particular bring so much to the experience of the book.

  • Lorilin
    2019-01-31 17:35

    It took me some time to slog through this one. I can see why some people loved this book, but it just wasn't my style. I really hated how frantic the dialogue-driven story was. Back and forth, back and forth, with no pauses, no breaks. I longed for some more descriptive passages, more moments of thoughtfulness from the characters. And yet, even without much description, the book went on forever! My God, it could have a few hundred pages shorter, in my opinion.I do think I was able to appreciate the book more as I read on, but it was never enjoyable to me. It didn't help that I didn't like many of the characters. Kamala was so irritating, and I agree with another reviewer who found Amina--and especially Amina's romantic relationship--to be somewhat confusing, inconsistent, and unrealistic.I know I am in the minority here, but, ultimately, I just didn't care for this book.

  • Michael
    2019-01-27 12:23

    Dark, sentimental and comical, Jacobs debut novel about a young photographer of Indian decent visiting her parent during a family crisis is deeply entwined in specifics of middle class immigrant experience while uncovering layers of family dysfunction and the will to carry on.Amina Eapen was born in New Mexico while her older brother, Akhil, was born in India before the family moved to America. The two are witness to there parents unhappiness with their mother Kamala clinging to the dream of returning home while father Thomas, disappears into his work at the local hospital and enjoying the Christian American community to whom he belongs. Now in her 30's, unmarried and working as a wedding photographer, Amina is tricked into returning to her family home by her mother only to find that her father despite his denial's is not well. Thomas has gone through much in his life with the death of family in India then having Akhil die in a car accident and now he continually talks to dead relatives while he has shown odd behaviour at work. By the time her father is diagnosed with cancer Amina is having her own struggles with the thoughts of her late brother while trying to juggle her deepening love for a man who's sister was Akhil's first and only love.Anina's romance and truly mouthwatering descriptions of Kamala's cooking provides passages of relief but does not diminish the Eapen's family tragedy. While Jacob's is willing to go for comedy in a number of passages the story itself is written with naked honesty about the uneasy generation divide among Indian's in America and about a family in all it's emotional stages. This is a story that combines freshness and compelling characters and is a must read.

  • Alison
    2019-02-05 18:26

    All I want is for a book to make me laugh or cry, and this one did both. These characters--these families and their heartbreaks and squabbles and hilarities--were real to me. I imagine that there are invisible pages out there in which they are still taking care of each other, lifting each other up and driving each other crazy. I loved this book.

  • Ms.pegasus
    2019-02-07 13:39

    Mira Jacobs examines family tensions exacerbated by diaspora in this narrative of the Eapen Family, emigrees from South India. A prologue establishes the present day timeline, June 1998. It is a literary snapshot providing the reader with a glimpse of their tenuous dynamic: one that's conscious, formal, safe, prescribed, and emotionally repressed; and one that's explosive and brutally candid, to be expressed only under the guise of abnormality: sleepwalking or mental aberration. Amina lives in Seattle rather than returning to the family homestead in Albuquerque. She is unmarried (despite countless blind dates set up by her mother without her permission), and not much of a cook ( “A collection of takeout boxes slumped together like old men in bad weather” in her refrigerator. (p.5) Still, she remains connected to a sense of ethnic identity. Her best friend is Dimple, another Indian from Albuquerque. They went to school together and they are so close they refer to each other as cousins. Dimple's parents are like an extended family to her own. Kamala is almost a parody of the ethnic mother. In addition to her obsession with marrying off her daughter to another Indian, she devotes herself to cooking. Biryani, pickles, chutneys, breads, stews and dips flow from her kitchen. The radio, TV and tabloid headlines appear to be her main connection to the world outside her kitchen. She supplements this with her own outrageous opinions voiced with a tenacious dismissal of opposing arguments. Jacob exploits this with often humorous results. The third character we view is her husband Thomas, a neurosurgeon who keeps late hours and chooses to spend his time isolated on the porch tinkering with whimsical inventions and succumbing to the soporific comfort of alcohol. The question Jacob appears to be addressing is how did this family become this way. The opening chapter provides a partial answer. The time jumps back to 1979. Amina is 11; her older brother Akhil is 14. The family makes a disastrous visit to Thomas' mother and his younger brother in India. His mother Ammachy is hardly loving. Instead we view a tyrannical matriarch unhappy at her inability to control events. For her the past was wonderful; everything afterward was downhill, beginning with the urban sprawl that now surrounds her house. She is angry that Thomas rejected the marriage she had arranged with Kamala's lighter skinned (in her eyes more desirable) cousin. She wants him to return to practice in India and attempts to manipulate him into accepting a position at the newly established rehabilitation center. For her dutiful son Sonil she has nothing but complaints and belittlement. The situation explodes. Thomas and his family leave despite Kamala's objections. It's the last time he sees his mother, and it leaves a permanent rift in his relationship to Kamala. After such a dramatic opening, I was expecting the story to resume with Amina's reluctant return to Albuquerque. In the prologue Kamala had called, complaining that Thomas was talking to his dead mother. She is able to guilt-trip Kamala without actually asking directly for her help. However, this thread is interrupted with the backstory of Amina's career in photography. She had been a successful photojournalist, but has retreated into events photography — weddings, funerals, graduations and the like. Book 3 makes another time jump. It is three years after the disastrous visit to India. Amina is now 14 and Akhil is 17. The focus switches to Akhil's troubled adolescence. Along with the time jumps there will be shifts in points of view. We follow Amina's problems, her adolescent observations of Akhil, and her observations both past and present of Thomas. Unfortunately, although Jacob ties all of this together, these pieces never coalesced for me into a satisfying whole. It was as if Jacob was trying to cover too much ground. Grief, alienation, vulnerability and the price of sacrificing duty for happiness all seem to compete for the reader's attention.On the positive side, Jacob has created some memorable characters. Thomas was especially vivid with his outgoing exuberance, off-beat sense of humor and intensity. The author mentions in an interview that this character was modeled after her own father who passed away during the course of writing the book. Kamala is irritating and humorous. The author takes great pains to explain that the character is NOT modeled on her own mother. Individual sections such as the explosive family conflict in India were unexpectedly sad. However, at 500 pages, I found this a difficult book to finish.I purchased this book on an online flash sale. I was particularly interested because of the Albuquerque setting.

  • Londa
    2019-02-05 15:18

    It has taken me a very long time to write this review. It also took me a long time to finish this book. I am so conflicted about how I feel about this novel. The beginning of the novel was stellar. I was completely absorbed in story of Amina's family and their visit back home to India. I wanted to know more about their life and time there. Unfortunately, that section of the book was very brief. Most of the book focused on the Eapen family life in America. Here is where I felt it lagged. The most detailed descriptions were of the food they ate, and I found myself wanting to try Indian food. What I didn't crave was the bland details of Amina's current life as an adult. The supernatural elements of the story were interesting to me, and ultimately saved this book from getting a 2 star rating. The last 75-100 pages were very heartwarming and beautiful. In the end, I would give this 3.5 stars.

  • Marieke
    2019-02-18 16:45

    I want to write a review, but I'm too tired right now. Maybe I'll come back to this but my track record is not great with that sort of thing. Suffice it to say that this was a really great read. The type of book that if you don't take your commuter train to the last stop, you might forget to get off the train. If you read in the morning over coffee before work, you might curse your coffee for disappearing "too fast" and be late for work. If you read before bed, you will need two such cups of coffee in the morning. And be late for work. You get the idea. Disclaimer: I was never late for work because I was reading this book. I also took "so long" to read it because the six-month-old in the house severely limits the times of day I can read. This was actually a pretty perfect book to read when one's opportunities are so limited.

  • ☮Karen
    2019-02-03 18:33

    Thanks to Goodreads first reads, I received a free copy. There is really quite a lot going on in this book, a very ambitious effort for a debut author. The story didn't take hold for me until page 200; nothing about it drew me back into it after setting it aside for a time. But then it finally got more interesting. I'm just very sorry it took its sweet time doing so! I probably would have given it 2 stars, but for some of the decriptions of the characters' feelings of grief and how love can grow in the midst of it all. That was its salvation.

  • Steph Post
    2019-01-27 19:40

    Traveling through decades and across continents, The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing is more than just the tale of Amina Eapen and her family. It is an immersion into different cultures, both Indian and American, and an exploration of the truest nature of love, loss and resilience. Jacob's book has a deep heart and an edge of magic to it.

  • Terry
    2019-02-11 17:45

    The title The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing immediately caught my eye as unusual and intriguing. It piqued my curiosity and once done, satisfied my love of a good story. I was very happy to receive this as Goodreads giveaway. Mira Jacob’s debut novel will be available July 1, 2014. It’ll be worth waiting for. From the opening paragraph to the ending, my interest never lagged. Actually my interest in all things I was supposed to be doing lagged. Never my interest in the story. Mira does a great job beginning the story near the end and in a series of flashbacks which alternate with current time brings us up to date.She has created characters who are warm, appealing, irksome, contradictory – pretty much like most families. I found much of the humor based in the immigrant theme of the narrative. The tension between the first and second generations, the mangled grammar and lack of understanding about American culture are always a minefield – could be funny, could be tragic and sometimes its both. Knowing some Indian immigrants, it was easy to hear the accent, see the headwagging, smell the fabulous dishes. This is a very sensual story in that respect.The Eapen family is the center of the story and is surrounded by friends who are also from India. They settled in Albuquerque where their daughter Amina and son Akhil attend a private school. Dr. Thomas Eapen experiences a health crisis late in his career and that is the starting point of the narrative. From there, the layers are peeled back to reveal all that transpired prior to the latest crisis. This book will appeal to anyone who loves a good story with compelling characters. And it's nice to see another story of an Albuquerque family after the tale of Walter White (Breaking Bad).

  • Abby
    2019-02-10 15:30

    *i received this book from a First Reads Giveaway*I SO wanted to love this book. It had all of the checkpoints of an "Oh Yeah, Abby's Gonna Love This" Book. Story spanning several decades? Check. Story follows a family and explores the relationships within that family? Check. Book jacket hints at supernatural/magical undertones? Triple check. What I ended up reading, however, was what I feel is a book that's couple hundred pages too long, with a story full of people who were well developed, but did not grow at all until the end.While I won't give too much away of the story, so as not to spoil it for anyone, I will say that Mira Jacob is phenomenal with the written word. The structure of the novel and the weaving in of different points of the Eapen family history was great and sincerely refreshing. One really gets a sense of the family dynamic from the very first chapter. It is no surprise that they are so familiar to the reader so quickly, being that it took Jacob over ten years to finish writing the book. It was very easy to see that these characters were very close to her heart.The most frustrating part of this book was that no one really wanted any of their family members to know their true feelings. I spent 400 pages reading about them telling each other they were fine, only to have the last 100 zoom by at warp speed with feelings being unearthed and the family (somewhat) moving forward. Maybe that was done on purpose, and other readers may have liked it...but it just wasn't my cup of tea.I will definitely be reading another of her books should she write more in the future.

  • Bonnie Brody
    2019-02-20 18:41

    This 500 page novel is about an immigrant family from India that comes to the United State in 1968, settling in Albuquerque. The novel goes back and forth in time, giving the reader a sense of what things were like in India as well as during the early years in New Mexico, along with what is happening currently.Amina is the primary character in the novel. She has left Albuquerque and now lives in Seattle where she is a wedding photographer. Out of the blue, she gets a phone call from her mother, Kamala, who is worried about Thomas, Amina's father. Kamala asks Amina to return home to New Mexico. Thomas has been hallucinating and talking to Akhil, Amina's dead brother. Thomas, a respected neurosurgeon, has been acting out of sorts for awhile. There has even been an incident at his hospital that has concerned his colleagues and the board.Amina has always had a difficult relationship with her parents. Kamala and Thomas have a marriage fraught with anger and pain. Amina feels like she's in a maelstrom when she's with them. As she navigates her time in New Mexico, she is also dealing with problems that have propped up with her job in Seattle. Though a wedding photographer by trade, she is actually an art photographer and some of her recent photographs have come to the attention of her boss who does not approve of them.The dialog can be riveting but, overall, the story moved too slowly for me to be entirely engrossed. I think Mira Jacobs' debut novel shows a remarkable talent and I look forward to her future writings.