“Let me tell you something about being brown like me: your story is already written for you. Your free will, your love, your failure, all of it scratched into the cosmos before you’re even born. My mother calls it fate, the story written on your head by the stars, by the gods, never by you. Everyone is watching you, all the time, praising you when you abide by your directives, waiting until you screw up. And you will screw up.”
SJ Sindu’s debut novel, “Marriage of a Thousand Lies”, tells the story of Lakshmi (called “Lucky”), a queer woman of color navigating the land mines and guilt trips of cultural beliefs and expectations. Lucky’s parents and their community are Tamil immigrants from Sri Lanka, a fiercely insular group bound by tradition.
“Silence is the rule. Words are complications, sharp edges that cut up our tongues. We keep them in with walls of teeth, preserve the peace. Om shanti shanti shanti, as the prayer goes. Peace at any cost, as the prayer goes.”
Lucky has been forced to hide and deny her sexuality all her life. In a desperate bid for acceptance, she has even engaged the ultimate beard – she has married Krishna (Kris), a gay man and fellow Tamil. These best friends do their best to shield themselves from the barbs of the world, hiding behind their sham marriage and hoping to pacify their families’ demands. But the tolls of lying, the costs of deception weigh heavily on Lucky.
“There’s a saying in Tamil that a thousand lies can make a marriage. Here’s the truth: I’m tired of lying.”
When Lucky’s grandmother is hospitalized, Lucky returns to her mother’s home to help care for her failing Ammamma. Back in her family’s orbit, however, her own struggles bubble to the surface. A grown woman now unemployed and living under her mother’s roof, Lucky is infantilized, reverting to secrecy and submission in order to placate her mother. When her first love announces her upcoming arranged marriage, Lucky lurches for solid ground.
“Marriage of a Thousand Lies” questions the truths we omit and the lies we perpetrate out of love. It highlights the growing pains and constant compromises of becoming an adult and managing your parents’ expectations. It exposes the self-defeating and often damaging notions of immigration and assimilation.
“Immigration policies re-create heightened natural selection. The smartest and those with the most resources make it out, along with a handful of those who just get lucky.”
Sindu writes a story of self-acceptance full of love and conflict. “Marriage of a Thousand Lies” is beautiful and bold, deeply honest and full of lies. And oh so very good.
“‘It’s always about the ones who aren’t here. Remember that.’
The sentiment seems to be one that every Sri Lankan understands implicitly, we who start every cultural function with a moment of silence for those lost in our country’s decades-long ethnic civil war. Never forget the empty chairs. Never forget who should’ve been here.”
Thank you to Soho Press, Inc. for providing a complimentary Advanced Review Copy in exchange for a fair and honest review. “Marriage of a Thousand Lies” will be published in the US on June 13, 2017.