- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press (16 February 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781250043948
- ISBN-13: 978-1250043948
- ASIN: 1250043948
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.7 x 21.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,12,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What Lies Between Us: A Novel Hardcover – 16 Feb 2016
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“The paradisiacal landscapes of Sri Lanka are as astonishing as the barbarity of its revolution, and Munaweera evokes the power of both in a lyrical debut novel worthy of shelving alongside her countryman Michael Ondaatje or her fellow writer of the multigenerational immigrant experience Jhumpa Lahiri.” ―Publishers Weekly
“The beating heart of ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS is not so much its human characters but Sri Lanka itself and the vivid, occasionally incandescent, language used to describe this teardrop in the Indian Ocean.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“[A] verdantly atmospheric first novel...expressive [and] deeply felt.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Munaweera's first novel is a breathtaking work of lyrical prose and vivid, transporting imagery. Part historical fiction, part family saga, it is most of all an ode to the Sri Lanka of the past and a hopeful wish for the country's future.” ―Booklist
About the Author
NAYOMI MUNAWEERA was born in Sri Lanka, and grew up in Nigeria. She emigrated with her family to the United States in her early teens, and now lives in Oakland, CA. Her first novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region and was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize.
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Thus, the book is setup for a very intimate first person narration, where the reader doesn’t learn the name of the narrator till the very last page. Between those pages, lie a story that starts In Sri Lanka and ends in America. A story throbbing with passion, of life, laughter, anger, frustration, deep shame, intense sexual awakening and feelings of betrayal and abandonment. All told with a deep sense of verisimilitude. The language remains sparse, but soars lyrical to resonate feelings of joy, and plumbs jagged when the mind unravels. The sense of loneliness at these times is like a weight on one’s chest.
This is not an easy book to read, in a sense that, the pages always throb with a sense of foreboding underlining the allegorical tale of the Moon Bears in the first chapter. Nayomi has approached the sacred mother daughter relationship from the opposite end of one that is accepted. The intimate scenes of growing up in a Sri Lanka that to a South Asian will sounds very familiar dissolves into a different mother child relationship in the new adopted country of the narrator, America. However, the struggles to balance the accepted with the pulls and pushes of the novel experience of motherhood, where the need to conform to society’s expectation is relentless, elevates the experience to a universal plane. One gets the feeling that, one’s own mother had gone through these same emotions in the past, but was forced to submerge these under the heavy weight of societal expectations and biological imperatives of survival of the species. We also realize, that without even pondering to think deep, we have learnt to accept and thereby (probably unfairly) elevated the role of the mothe and imbued the role of motherhood with some amount of needless piety. Nayomi unflinchingly portrays this. We learn how the very act of giving birth, breaks the body of a mother into an irreversible state. Therefore, a mother now has to undertake a superhuman effort to get her older self, back. But what about the mind? What about the changes in current relationships. Can it return to its older, freer state? This book is not an injunction against motherhood. But it’s also not a book that has set out to glorify motherhood. It dares to unflinchingly look at the mother child relationship and dares the reader to do the same. She dares the reader to discover “what lies between” in this relationship.
This is her confession.
A child is nourished upon her mother's blood. If it is a time of starvation in the village, the crops lean, the riverbed dry, a mother takes what food there is and gives it to her child. She denies herself, mortifies her flesh, suffers in silence rather than let her child feel the smallest discomfort. All creatures abide by this law. This is the way of nature. To be otherwise is to be unnatural, to be a monster, outside the pale.
What is the bond between a mother and a baby? Just the chemical bond or the biological bond or both or something completely different? How does a baby understand it's mother even when it cannot look clearly? How much love does a mother have for her baby to sacrifice every inch of her body and soul or the sake of this little being? How much pain does the mother feel when she realizes her body is not her or her beloved's anymore but just the baby's? How much pain does the mother feel when she loves her baby so much as to do something so horrible that it's going to hunt her the rest of her life? How much damage does a girl go through all her life after having been raped when she was just a child? How much influence does it have on her adulthood...her life...her motherhood?
A spine chilling tale that will keep you hooked up till the very end.. a tale filled with humongous, rough, rushing storms that damage a little girl so hard that she never forgets the effects...never have I read such a heart wreaking tale.
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Nayomi Munaweera, in her second book, spins a tale of a young girl from Sri Lanka who, after her father’s demise,...Read more