Title: The Story of a Brief Marriage
Author: Anuk Arudpragasam
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
“The Story of a Brief Marriage” is a raw and stark portrayal of a marriage amidst the civil war in Sri Lanka. There, that’s what the book is about. But don’t be mistaken by this one-liner. There is obviously more to the story than just a marriage in time of war. What I could not believe was that this was the author’s debut, only because the skill and craft is way too meticulous and perfect. Also, the backdrop (or perhaps just another character) that is Sri Lanka, adds to the tumultuous nature of this brilliant novel that you just cannot not read.
Dinesh has been evacuated to a makeshift refugee camp as the army advances. He is alienated from home, his family, even from the language he speaks to even his own body. He lives his days without any reaction to what is going on around him (my heart broke to read descriptions of Dinesh in such situation. Arudpragasm does a wonderful job of bringing the real to you as you turn the pages and sometimes too scared to turn them as well) till an old man approaches him and proposes that he marry his daughter Ganga. Marriage in this environment of war seems like safety and the two of them do get married. How they live thereon and make do with circumstances that surround them is what makes the rest of the book or the entire book what it is.
There are so many hopeful moments in the book that sometimes you forget that you are reading a story set in the time of war. Dinesh and Ganga’s banter and silences stay with you and make you wonder how you would react in such situations. Some things as basic such as eating, sleeping, drinking water, breathing, washing or even speaking are touched on with such tenderness in the marriage and the reader is yet well aware of the war that wages outside and its repercussions, that make for an unexpected ending.
Arudpragasm writes with simplicity and honesty that is so at the core that you believe everything he tells you. He also makes you invest your time and emotions in his characters. You feel what they feel, think what they think and also experience fear as they do. The strange and yet assured intimacy between Dinesh and Ganga is sometimes funny and sometimes just heartbreaking. As I reader, while I was aware where the book was headed, I didn’t want it to go there, given how hopelessly a romantic I am.
“The Story of a Brief Marriage” is a short book that doesn’t waste words. The structure, plot and dialogues between characters seem so real that it could very-well be happening in your backyard and you could relate to it just the same. Their world collapses and Anuk makes you feel for them. You are happy for them. You sigh for them and you also cry a lot for and with them. A read not to miss out on.