What we love makes us who we are. The people we love most obviously – they define the shape of our days and interactions. But the things we love to do – they define us in isolation. They make who we would be on a desert island when we weren’t trying to find rainwater and wild boar.
I find my identity when I read, when I listen to music I love, eat new and exciting food, talk about culture and politics. Don’t get me wrong: I am never happier, never more full with love, than when looking at the smiling faces of my children. Spooning puree, blowing raspberries on dimpled thighs, chasing down the eldest. Being a mother is exquisite and extreme; its highs chest-bursting, its rages loud. But when I do get the chance to do the things that I spend twenty years working out were My Things, My Favourite Things, the things that make me who I am as an individual – there’s a sort of glimpse of pleasant recognition like seeing a friend on the street unexpectedly. “Oh, there you are! Nice to see you!” Those times you walk away thinking, “I forgot how much I liked them. I must see them more.”
I felt like this coming to the terribly named The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing. “Ah, novels!” I thought to myself. “Of course! I love you guys. I must see more of you.”
In 100 words:
Too many immigrant dramas are obsessed exclusively with the immigrant condition but Jacob weighs this beautifully with other elements in her modern tale of family, sickness, career, trauma and love. Protagonist Amina is at once photographer, daughter to an ailing and deteriorating father, sister to a dead brother, modern American woman, second generation immigrant, woman in love and woman in trauma. Similarly the story makes room for mystery without it becoming hokey and pain which can be fundamental and slight all at once – in short, for the complexity of being human, without giving in to airs and graces. A pleasure.