The Best Book in the World aka The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

cover45330-mediumThe Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

Hot on the heels of the most appalling thing I’ve ever read, I have an absolutely stellar review for certainly the best NetGalley book I’ve ever read.

It’s not my normal fare. Straight lady fiction about first generation Americans is way outside of my wheelhouse. But I kept seeing the cover in the Popular Titles section, and it spoke to me. Damn, I am glad it did. This book ate me up and I loved every second of it.

I called it “Oprah’s Book Club shit” to my friend, but that’s only a shadow of what this book is. Oprah’s book club books are trying and failing to be this: A simply told story about the wonderful, terrible realities of life.

The novel follows main character Amina, first generation American daughter of East Indian immigrants as she deals with both her father’s aging, and her family’s past. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot because, even though it’s not a thriller by any means, it’s still full of little things a simple summary wouldn’t do justice.

The characters are so well developed that I just want to hang out with them. That’s one of the reasons I kept reading even though the subject matter of career angst and family drama tends not to hold my interest. But the machinery behind this books is amazingly well thought-out. According to the author’s thank you page, it took her ten years to write, and the time was well worth it. This is the least first-noveley first novel I have ever read. I’ve can name 10th novels that don’t flow as smoothly as The Sleepwalker’s Guide.

There was a point when I could see the entire plot coming together, but not in the way it can do when the book is a cliche. In the way a dance comes together, for lack of a better word. All of the characters were so perfect, so human and real that it was a case study in how a thing can fall apart for 20 years and we might not see it until the very last night.

Anybody who has family secrets, anybody who’s ever sat across a dining table from someone and felt a million miles away, anybody who ever wanted to run away from it all, but went back instead should read this book. I fell in love with every character the way an aunt loves a favorite niece. Even when they were stupid or careless, I couldn’t stop loving them. I knew so deeply how they worked, why they couldn’t have done better if they’d tried. I only wish I could look at my own family members through the objective lense that this book lent me for it’s duration.

For all it’s drama and dour-seeming subject matter, The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing was also an extremely life-affirming book. There are things you witness, that you do, that you can never take back. And yet life, in whatever form, will move on. Sometimes with you, sometimes without you. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we have, and even if it’s not enough for us, it’s enough for life. It’s enough to keep time moving onward, creating new and completely unexpected outcomes.

The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing comes out on July 1, 2014. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon now, and I honestly think it’s probably the only real quality book you’ll see on beach reading lists this summer.