4. A book written in South Asia: Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu
List Progress: 16/25
Indecision is tricky to write. Plot is almost always created by characters choosing things, committing to paths and seeing them to their end or switching to other paths when the first one doesn’t pan out. A character can be indecisive for a while, but eventually they need to choose something. Anything. If they don’t, you can end really strong individual character scenes, set in a wandering, repetitive, formless plot. Which is the trap that Marriage of the Thousand Lies, the 2017 novel by SJ Sindu, unfortunately falls into.
(On a quick side note, this is a bit of a cheat to use this book for the South Asian category; Sindu was born in Sri Lanka, but raised in Massachusetts, the same as protagonist Lucky. However, the book deals largely with Sri Lankan American culture and the immigrant experience, so I’m going to count it.)
The basic premise is that Lucky is a lesbian in a marriage of convenience with her gay male friend in order to live up to her parents’ expectations and be accepted in the local Tamil community. Her relatively comfortable balance is thrown off when her childhood best friend and first love Nisha announces her own upcoming marriage to a man. Lucky is torn between her commitment to her family that rejects her sexuality, her wish to be like her butch white lesbian friends who seemingly live out and proud without a care, and her hope that Nisha will choose her, which Nisha constantly goes back and forth on. The initial set-up is fascinating and richly portrayed, but then…nothing changes. Things happen to Lucky, things happen around Lucky, but she very rarely takes any real action. Nisha is even more indecisive, and it becomes difficult to care about characters who can never decide what they want.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies was a definite page turner, I found myself wanting to keep engaging with Lucky, but it became clear as the book entered the final third that there could be no truly satisfying ending. Part of that does feel very real and intentional; a lesbian living in a very homophobic family environment is unlikely to find any pat or tidy answers to her dilemmas. But part of it does also feel like a structural issue with the novel, where Lucky will occasionally immerse herself in distractions that come across as tangents, never to be returned to or mentioned once the main action of the subplot has passed. The book engages so much with messy emotions that it becomes messy itself.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies has a lot to offer, especially to young queer people navigating a second generation immigrant experience. With a few more drafts, I feel like this book could really shine, but Sindu isn’t quite there yet.
Would I Recommend It: Not really.