Thursday, October 9, 2014

Julie's Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors


Author: Nayomi Munaweera
Series: None
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 256
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A short but powerful book that everyone should read.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: 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, Yasodhara’s and her siblings’ lives are shaped by social hierarchies, their parents’ ambitions, teenage love 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. Saraswathie 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. Nayomi Munaweera's 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. ~amazon.com

Review: Island of a Thousand Mirrors is a coming of age in the time of war novel and it is so much more than that. It is about remember where you are from while trying to forget what you saw. It is about trying to keep your head down and still being pulled into a war that you did not cause and do not want.

I found myself in the midst of Yasodhara and Saraswathie stories so easily. It was like was I was transported via Ms. Munaweera's words to war torn Sri Lanka. Most of the first part of the story surrounded Yasodhara's family history and then her young life in Sri Lanka. I loved learning about her grandparents and then her parents.  Growing up Yasodhara plays with Shiva, a young Tamil boy who's family rents the upstairs of their house. As kids, they don't understand the differences between Tamils and Sinhala's but the country is starting to separate based on these ethnicities.

Yasodhara and her family flee the war torn country to Los Angeles, where they encounter a whole host of difficult situations. I can only imagine how hard it is to be ripped from the only home you've known and thrown into a different country and different culture.

The second part of the novel focuses on Saraswathie and her family's struggles during the civil war between the Tigers (Tamils) and the Sinhalas. Her life growing up is a stark contrast to Yasodhara, her daily life is affected by war. Children disappear off the street, young men go off to fight to give their people a land of their own. Saraswathie's own brothers have gone off and given their lives to the cause.

It is what happens to Saraswathie and drove her to the path she chooses that ripped my heart out. It is these stories of civil war that broke my heart. It is the story of the innocent trapped in a war that they don't fully understand or want.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors is a rare find in a novel and I don't think my review has done it the justice it deserves. It is a beautiful and heartbreaking story. The way that Ms. Munaweera weaves their two stories together is amazing. As a reader you see it coming and you can't do anything about it; it rips your heart apart.

Ms. Munaweera's prose is elegant and harsh all at once. She wants the reader to feel the pain that the girls are feeling, along with the joy. Her writing pulls you immediately into their lives. I can't wait to see what she writes about next.

If you read one book for the rest of 2014, make it Island of a Thousand Mirrors. You won't regret it.




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