I was scared to read this book out loud for a lot of reasons. I’m not an actress. I’ve never read anything aloud for 30 minutes, much less a week of 6-hour days. Also, due to sheer nervousness about it going out into the world, I’d avoided the book ever since I’d turned in my last edits. What if I hated it once I’d heard it out loud? Also, it is a really emotional book and what if I did something ridiculous like cry while I was reading? I hate crying in front of other people. I can barely stand crying in front of myself.
So it came as a complete surprise to me that reading THE SLEEPWALKER’S GUIDE TO DANCING out loud was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Who knew? Certainly not me the first moment I showed up for the job and stepped into the tiny sound booth. It was padded and dark and looked like the kind of place that a 5-year-old might have a good tantrum, provided the microphone was removed. The director and the engineer were a lovely duo—smart, patient, full of good advice—which was good because that first day itself was rough with me stumbling over names and words like I’d been given a high doses of novocaine. Soon enough, though, I settled into the reading and that’s when it happened.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that in the course of writing this book, my father died. And while I had originally written another father into the story, when I tried to write it after he died, I just kept writing him. His mannerisms. His speech patterns. His way of moving through the world. I fought it for a while and then finally I gave in, getting rid of the other father I’d written completely. So in a way, this book became a long goodbye to my father. A long goodbye he would never read.
Except that something happened in that booth. I have some reliable things to blame this on—my headphones, my proximity to the mic, my own voice in my head for days on end—but the truth is that in the course of reading the book, I started thinking that my dad could hear me. No, not metaphorically, but really. Like he was somehow on the other side of the glass, with the director and the engineer. Sometimes I wouldn’t look up for hours because it felt so good to imagine him there. And I did this every day for a week. A week! In between sessions, the director, engineer and I would eat together and they would ask me things about the book and it was so lovely really, to see how involved they were with the story.
The night before our last day of recording, I couldn’t sleep. I knew it was going to be over soon. Here I’d finally gotten on some weird telephone call with my dad after eight long years of missing him every day and it was going to be time to hang up.
Seven pages before the end, I stopped being able to read. I just couldn’t keep going. Instead, I sat in this little booth with tears running down my face and my fists clenched. I was barely breathing because I was sure I would start sobbing if I did. I really didn’t want to look up. I didn’t want to see that I was alone.
“I’m sorry,” I told the director and the engineer. “I just need a minute.”
“Take your time,” the director told me, and I started crying really hard, which probably should have been more embarrassing, considering how clearly they could hear me, but it wasn’t. Here were these two humans on the other side of the glass who didn’t know, would never know my father, but they did. And we were all losing him in that moment. And no one rushed me out of it. No one said any silly or comforting or wise words. They just let me cry. When I was done, we finished the recording.
—Mira JacobLISTEN TO A CLIP of Mira’s incredible reading here:
What reviewers are saying:
“[Jacob] has created a memorable and dramatic portrait of a family in flux.”—Booklist
“Comparisons of Jacob to Jhumpa Lahiri are inevitable…both write with naked honesty about the uneasy generational divide among Indians in America and about family in all its permutations.”—Kirkus
“The author has a wonderful flair for recreating the messy sprawl of family life, with all its joy, sadness, frustration, and anger…lovingly created and keenly observed characters.”—Publishers Weekly
Her audiobook producer raved:
My #1 book of 2014 is onsale today: THE SLEEPWALKER'S GUIDE TO DANCING, read with great humor & touching emotion by the author, @mirajacob
— Aaron Blank (@AARONBLANKRH) July 1, 2014
As have many of her new fans:
— Rachel Fershleiser (@RachelFersh) July 2, 2014
Don’t miss adding this terrific debut author’s audiobook recording to your library’s shelves.
Want even more from Mira? Watch this adorable and hilarious book trailer in which Mira talks to the hard-hitting, book-loving interviewer, Zakir: