Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bookish Thoughts: The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

Most children have two whole legs and two whole arms but this little six-year-old that Dinesh was carrying had already lost one leg, the right one from the lower thigh down, and was now about to lose his right arm. A Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

The Story of a Brief Marriage by Aunk Arudpragasam
Flatiron Books, 2016
Fiction; 208 pgs

The Story of a Brief Marriage first came to my attention when it arrived in My Lit Box subscription the end of last year. I was able to fit it in as my last book read of 2016, and what a read it was! In the novel, Sri Lanka has been in civil war for decades and the army has pushed the Tamil minority up against the coast. Dinesh, one refugee among many, has been on the run for so long that he barely remember his life before--and yet, what he does remember is worlds away from where he is now. It was as if he had been a different person. So much has changed. Now, he is numb and surviving the best he can. He is going through the motions.

Something inside Dinesh awakens when he is approached with a marriage proposal. When was the last time he had family of his own? He longs to be needed and the desire to protect and care for another human being grows in him the more he considers the proposal. Ganga is reluctant to marry Dinesh. She had just lost her mother and brother two weeks before. Dinesh wonders at the father's motives for wanting to marry off his daughter, but in a way, he understands.

We really do not get to know Ganga's full story, which I wish we could have seen more into. This is all Dinesh's story, however. At the start of the novel, he is helping an injured boy--we see over the course of the novel that Dinesh is a caring and thoughtful human being. There is a scene with a crow that offers the reader a deeper glimpse at Dinesh's mindset over the course of the novel. Ganga's reaction is how I might have reacted, but Dinesh offers a different perspective, about life and holding onto it as long as we can, no matter how painful.

I can't even imagine being in a situation like Dinesh and Ganga. In a scene near the end, there is a boy standing and staring, not reacting in the middle of a missile attack, and I thought of the photo of the little boy in Aleppo, numb and not crying, that was all over the media last year. Like him, so many in this situation are numb to what goes on around them, having to always live in fear. It comes down to just trying to survive: to eat and sleep and even relieving oneself.

Anuk Arudpragasam's The Story of a Brief Marriage is beautifully written. It takes place over a 24 hour time period and is just over 200 pages, but is not a quick read. It is detailed and contemplative. The novel is an experience more than it is a story. I felt the numbness and desperation of the characters. I felt raw inside. Everything we do and have--what we often take for granted--how easy to forget how many advantages we have. How little we really need. How unimportant it all is, especially when in situation like Dinesh and Ganga, where survival is all they can focus on. The Story of a Brief Marriage is a reminder of how fragile we all are, and yet how resilient we can be. It is also the story of how war can rip us bear and leave us raw. We keep going, surviving in the worst of circumstances because we have to.

To learn more about author Anuk Arudpragasam and his work, please visit the author's website.

© 2017, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. You write very insightful commentary.

    Living in conditions of war and other forms of mass violence is unimaginable for many people who have never lived it. Books like this are important as they communicate just a little of the experience out to the world.

  2. This sounds like a moving and important book!

  3. I have this one and picked it up and set it back down before starting my current read. It sounds like I should have read it!

  4. This sounds like an impressive book. It is so hard to imagine what it must be like living in a place where violence and death is a part of each day.

  5. I love stories like this because of the way they always make me stop and think, and empathize and feel for others, and also to be more grateful for my own blessings in life; I also love them because of what I learn about other places in the world. I haven't read a book set in Sri Lanka before, but you make me really want to read this one. :)

  6. Wow, powerful story, powerful review. I need to read this, but I want to be in the right mood, because I can predict I'll be pulled into the melancholy plot and empathize with Dinesh and his family.

  7. This sounds like both a powerful and emotional story, Wendy. Books like this are always hard to read yet they are important and serve as reminders that we shouldn't take things for granted and that we should be grateful for what we have. Thanks so much for bringing this book to our attention, Wendy.

  8. Definitely sounds like a book I'm going to like!

  9. This sounds like a powerful story indeed! I will have to see if my library carries this one as I'm really intrigued. Thank you or such a thoughtful review!


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