Sindu, SJ. “Marriage of a Thousand Lies” Soho Press, 2017.
Friendship, Family, Love, and Loss
Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay and present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families. Each dates on the side. It’s not an ideal situation yet for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. However, when her grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding to a man she’s never met. To do this both women must be able to walk away from the values of their parents and community. Regardless of the choice she makes, Lucky will remain an outsider yet she is pushed to the breaking point. We read here of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality.
Lucky is a young woman who yearns for love and tradition and celebration yet she defies expectations and navigates her own paths. We do not have much literature about Sri Lankan immigrant culture making this a book that reveals the secrets of a community that is somewhere between East and West.
Lucky is the youngest of three daughters of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. She was able to get past the demands that she marry a Hindu man and marries a gay man, Krishna, instead. Kris is willing to father a child and has promised to divorce Lucky if her childhood best friend and first love, Nisha, will marry her.
However, Nisha has agreed to an arranged marriage in order to get out from other her mother’s domination. She is willing to have sex with Lucky and to drink with some lesbian rugby players but she is not willing to cut herself off from family and community by running away with Lucky. Lucky is tired of living lies, even as Nisha drifts toward marrying a proper Hindu husband.
SJ Sindu gives us an engaging narrator and a look at the demands for heteronormative conformity on American-born daughters of a close-knit immigrant community. The Sri Lankan community is not kind to unmarried women, even ones who have reproduced yet is difficult to, sympathize with Nisha’s mother who is intent on marrying her daughter off. She is unable to think that her daughter might have lesbian tendencies.
The novel is et in 2012 in America and is a coming-out novel and an exploration of a culture many readers are not be familiar with. It is also a novel — about the complications and secrets of a family. Subplots include dealing with a grandmother with dementia, children of divorced parents facing the father’s second marriage and loyalties to the mother and pressures to conform to culture and family traditions. There are many contradictions here and these show that life is more open-ended than we realize. Marriage and stability seem important to Lucky’s family and particularly her mother while her father has divorced her mother and married her mother’s best friend, Laila Aunty. Lucky marries Kris so that both of them will have respectability without sacrificing who they truly are, even though they cannot live their truth and be accepted by their families and community.
Author SJ Sindu lets Lucky tell her own story so that we get to experience and understand Lucky’s world and characters and she candidly does so with honesty.
This is not a story about being gay rather it is the story of “a gay person being”. Family, culture, expectations, tradition, education all collide and conflict and come together in ways both expected and unexpected.
Lucky has found a safe way to hide but life takes that away from her. This is not a happy story but it is a story about finding freedom and living with some problems and getting rid of others.