A stunning literary debut of two young women on opposing sides of the devastating Sri Lankan Civil War.
Before violence tore apart the tapestry of Sri Lanka and turned its pristine beaches red, there were two families. Yasodhara tells the story of her own Sinhala family, rich in love, with everything they could ask for. As a child in idyllic Colombo, social hierarchies, their parents’ ambitions, and teenage love shape Yasodhara and her siblings’ lives, and, subtly, the differences between Tamil and Sinhala people; but the peace is shattered by the tragedies of war. Yasodhara's family escapes to Los Angeles. But Yasodhara's life has already become intertwined with a young Tamil girl's.
Saraswathi is living in the active war zone of Sri Lanka and hopes to become a teacher. But her dreams for the future are abruptly stamped out when she is arrested by a group of Sinhala soldiers and pulled into the very heart of the conflict that she has tried so hard to avoid - a conflict that, eventually, will connect her and Yasodhara in unexpected ways.
In the tradition of Michael Ondatje's Anil's Ghost and Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Island of a Thousand Mirrors is an emotionally resonant saga of cultural heritage, heartbreaking conflict, and deep family bonds. Narrated in two unforgettably authentic voices and spanning the entirety of the decades-long civil war, it offers an unparalleled portrait of a beautiful land during its most difficult moment by a spellbinding new literary talent who promises tremendous things to come.
©2014 Nayomi Munaweera (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
This is not an easy book to read. The story vividly describes horrific tragedies of the Sri Lankan civil war where hatred for the other came with birth. It is a dance of light and dark, love and hate, joy and despair, beauty and the beast.
The author never flinches, taking us deep into the darkest wells of human nature without ever losing the connecting power of love and family and home. Richly detailed from both sides of the conflict, there is no hero other than the resilience of the human spirit and the healing power of love, no villain other than the mindset of “us and them” and the willingness to think violence is a solution.
This must have been a gut-wrenching book to write. It is definitely a book that will stay with me for a long time as I wonder, “Could it happen here?” I highly recommend the audible version brilliantly read by Priya Ayyar.
This was my first listen from a native Sri Lankan authoress. As the book won a prestigious award for a debut novel, I was intrigued by its author and her background from Sri Lanka to Nigeria and then onwards to the USA. As a Sri Lankan living in the USA myself, I really wanted to get into the subject matter covered in the book. From a video I learned that the book took 5 years to complete.
The book is astonishingly good. It intricately weaves the lives of the protagonists through their idyllic upbringing around tropical beach settings contrasted with the tumultuous war stricken northern waste lands and horrendous outcomes. There is so much in this book to devour and it challenged by own views of the Sri Lankan conflict. Throughout the book, we see the face of racism and also heroic compassion at the worst of times. The ending itself is gut wrenching and yet hopes for a brighter future.
If there is a negative, western audiences may be lost on some of the nuances of Sri Lankan culture, its typical idiosyncrasies and humor, as well as some language terms. But that should not deter anyone from enjoying this masterful novel.
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