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Love Marriage: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

V.V. Ganeshananthan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In this globe-scattered Sri Lankan family, we speak of only two kinds of marriage. The first is the Arranged Marriage. The second is the Love Marriage. In reality, there is a whole spectrum in between, but most of us spend years running away from the first toward the second. [p. 3]

The daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants who left their collapsing country and married in America, Yalini finds herself caught between the traditions of her ancestors and the lure of her own modern world. But when she is summoned to Toronto to help care for her dying uncle, Kumaran, a former member of the militant Tamil Tigers, Yalini is forced to see that violence is not a relic of the Sri Lankan past, but very much a part of her Western present.

While Kumaran’s loved ones gather around him to say goodbye, Yalini traces her family’s roots–and the conflicts facing them as ethnic Tamils–through a series of marriages. Now, as Kumaran’s death and his daughter’s politically motivated nuptials edge closer, Yalini must decide where she stands.

Lyrical and innovative, V. V. Ganeshananthan’s novel brilliantly unfolds how generations of struggle both form and fractures families.

Praise for Love Marriage
“A beautiful first novel. This intricately woven tale, with its universal themes of love and estrangement, presents an exciting new voice in American literature.”
–Yiyun Li, author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers

“Complex and moving . . . an impressive debut.”
–Daniel Alarcón, author of Lost City Radio   

“V. V. Ganeshananthan has given us a riveting picture of the intersections of love and war that shape us all. A debut of incredible passion and wisdom.”
–Rebecca Johns, author of Icebergs

“At its best and simplest, Ganeshananthan can be profoundly moving. She captures the pain of exile poignantly.” --The San Francisco Chronicle
“Ganeshananthan has created a slow-burning and beautifully written debut in Love Marriage.  It is an evocative examination of Sri Lankan cultural mores, and the way one family is affected by love and war” — The Financial Times
“Poignant and authentic…. Insight gained into Toronto's Tamil community is a welcome bonus in this gem of a book by a young writer who is sure to present more thought-provoking, entertaining prose in the future.” --The Toronto Star
“The book is at times witty and always beautifully written” — The Irish Times

"Innovative….this is an ambitious family drama about an underreported part of the world, filled with well-shaded characters [and] gorgeous flourish…Buy it." -- New York Magazine

"As if she were stringing a necklace of bright beads, the author relates the stories of Yalini's Sri Lankan forebears in lapidary folkloric narratives…What she does here, she does quite affectingly." -- The Boston Globe

"In spare, lyrical prose, V.V. Ganeshananthan's debut novel tells the story of two Sri Lankan Tamil families over four generations who, despite civil war and displacement, are irrevocably joined by marriage and tradition….Powerful." -- Ms. Magazine

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Several generations of a Sri Lankan family touched by the country's civil war confront the limits of ethnic and familial allegiance in Ganeshananthan's forceful but patchy debut. First-generation American Yalini, daughter of Sri Lankan Tamil parents Vani and Murali, is an awkward 22-year-old who has spent her youth burdened by family secrets from their lives before emigration. Confronted with her enigmatic dying uncle, Kumaran, who had a shadowy role in Sri Lanka's insurgent Tamil Tigers, Yalini is driven to examine her relatives' marriages as a means of figuring out their alliances and her own unsettled identity. Her parents fell in love in New York and escaped arranged marriages back home; her grandparents, aunts and uncles have their own stories; Kumaran's 18-year-old daughter chooses to wed a Tamil Tiger financier. Written in short blocks of text, the book is structured as a kind of day book where Yalini records her progress. Repetitions create a meditative mood, but dull the book's emotional core and make emphasis on marriage seem forced. The most vivid character, Rajie, the daughter of an old family friend, appears only briefly. And the issues that plague Yalini remain vague until the last third of the novel, when the narrative suddenly takes on real power. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Born of Sri Lankan immigrants, Ganeshananthan presents a contemplative debut novel that portrays the ways one extended Sri Lankan family copes with displacement, a break with tradition, opposing political persuasions, and guilt after the beginnings of Sri Lanka’s dissolution in 1983. Yalini, the narrator, is born that very year in Connecticut to parents united in a “love marriage” instead of the more typical arranged pairing. Their families are still living in Sri Lanka and are “not quite speaking, and neither knowing exactly why.” As Yalini matures into a modern American woman, she listens to the stories of aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents, and their marriages—most arranged, some happy, and some that “go on even when they should not.” She also learns the painful lesson that “one’s relatives do not always share one’s politics,” as she gradually becomes privy to family secrets and resentments “shut up in the cool and quiet cabinet of memory.” Written in sparse vignettes replete with emotional recollections of the past, Ganeshananthan’s first novel imagines a rich and haunting family history. --Deborah Donovan

Product Details

  • File Size: 749 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0753826224
  • Publisher: Random House (April 8, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015DYKO8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #396,561 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent novel! April 21, 2008
If I was going to write a novel about my experience as a Sri Lankan American and the two cultures, this is exactly what I would hope it would be like in both content and writing style. Actually that's an understatement: this is more than what I could possibly hope such a novel to be. Ganeshananthan's story-telling skill is superb and her literary voice is honest, sincere, intelligent, and eloquent. This is a FANTASTIC first novel and I am eagerly awaiting the second, go VV! Definitely read this book, I sense a budding Arundhati Roy in this woman....
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unconventional, enjoyable May 6, 2008
By M. Bell
Yes, there are a fair number of rhetorical flourishes in this first novel that may not suit everyone's taste, particularly since the story would draw the reader in effectively even if they weren't there. Yes, it may seem odd that the story's protagonist is arguably its least compelling character (although she is redeemed somewhat through her link to another character late in the novel), or that for a substantial part of the later chapters, not much actually happens. But there's so much good happening here that I recommend V.V. Ganeshananthan's "Love Marriage" wholeheartedly.

The episodic, almost staccato manner in which the story is told works effectively, both as a way of flitting between points in time and vividly rendered spaces in the characters' hearts and as a way of muting the effect of the aforementioned rhetorical flourishes. The limning of the two worlds Yalini straddles is skillful, with the Sri Lankan parts being particularly effective (I actually found myself wanting more of the Sri Lankan story, particularly the Tigers, than we get). The stories of a number of the supporting characters in this novel--aunts and uncles and cousins--are three-dimensional and compelling, and the place Yalini and her family's arc ultimately takes us is not to the clear conclusion that one might expect (and that some of the marketing material curiously hints at) but it is a place that I found consistent with the story's realism and nuance and the substantive themes woven throughout.

Solid stuff, overall.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love Marriage May 16, 2008
Love Marriage is the story of Yalini, a recent college grad who is a first generation Sri Lankan-American. The book is not so much her story, as it is the story of her Sri Lankan family and the trials and tribulations they experienced as a result of Marriage. It is not just internal family squabbles that run through the book, it is also the recent history of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers that really make this book a gem. While there are plenty of books about India, Sri Lanka is often overshadowed; the country's history isn't nearly as well known. While most people have heard of the Tamil Tigers, few know who they really are or what it means. That is the strength of this book - the history it reveals to its readers. While the story of the people and relationships is somewhat less compelling, overall it is still a book that is very much worth reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A proper story of an Improper Marriage June 23, 2008
When Murali, a Sri Lankan Tamil practicing medicine in the U.S., met Vani, a girl who had grown up in a village near his and had fled to the states in search of her life, they decided to marry. By Tamil tradition, their marriage was a Love Marriage, frowned on in a Hindu society that relied on adherence to traditions.
"In this globe-scattered Sri Lankan family, we speak only of two kinds of marriage. The first is the Arranged Marriage. The second is the Love Marriage," says Yalini, their American-born daughter and the narrator of this delightful first novel.
A Love Marriage is by definition an Improper Marriage. In Sri Lanka, Vani's brother Kumaran was a leader of the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group fighting for independence from the country's ruling Sinhalese majority. When he heard of the couple's marriage plans, he raged against Murali's family and threatened to kill them. Now, almost 30 years later, Kumaran is dying and he turns to Murali for help. He travels with his daughter Jenani to Canada, where Murali and Vani rent a house on the outskirts of Toronto's Sri Lankan community to care for him until the end comes.
Yalini, who complained earlier that "no matter how American I was, I was also the only Sri Lankan" in school, is forced to realize that, in the words of her cousin, "I can already see that you do not know anything about" Sri Lanka. She encounters the reality of Tamil life through the stories of her uncle, through the uncovering of her family's history, and her interactions with the Tamil community in Toronto.
First-time author V.V. Ganeshananthan has crafted an absorbing tale that carries the reader through the plot twists -- present and past -- effortlessly. Her writing style consists of short bursts of exposition; some sections are only a few lines long.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable though flawed June 13, 2008
I almost immediately fell in love with the staccato rhythm of the blunt sentences and short chapters in V. V. Ganeshananthan's first novel, Love Marriage. Love Marriage is the aggregate love story of narrator Yalini's Sri Lankan ancestors, a compare and contrast of the many different forms the social contract of marriage can take. The stories of each pair of relations form a series of lovely vignettes, many of which have a beautiful internal symmetry: in one story Yalini's father grows up thinking he has a broken (diseased) heart, only to discover that his heart is healthy and his true love in America, in another a young girl replaces her sister in a school championship after her sister suffers a freak accident, inadvertently appropriating the injured sister's future as well.

However, I was unable to find this order and grace within the larger story of the novel. Yalini begins the novel with ambiguous feelings about her heritage, and spends the bulk of it learning her family's stories from her dying uncle, a former Tamil Tiger. In the end she seems to be deteriorating emotionally, perhaps suffering from depression as she deals with her Uncle's death and her cousin's questionable arranged marriage. Yalini is almost a side-note in her own story, and it is difficult to understand what she has gained from her increasing awareness of her Sri Lankan history. The novel has almost no real-time action (as opposed to action occurring in historical flashbacks and stories) and ends abruptly. Obvious themes include the lack of rigid social guidance in America as compared to Sri Lanka, and the hatred and forgiveness that can emerge from long ethnic wars, but again neither of these themes is expounded much in the actual life of Yalini.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Many Shades of Grey
I read this book nearly six years ago and have had a great deal of difficulty getting a handle on the overarching theme. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Blake Fraina
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing, poetic book
If you love language and how it can tell a story--better, you are awed by how it can sing a story to you in written form, then this is THE book. Read more
Published on March 29, 2011 by Reader in Search of
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and musical!
I really enjoyed the writer's narrative style. Very musical. The short chapter lengths definitely appealed to me. I appreciated the simplicity and freshness in the language. Read more
Published on November 30, 2009 by Sweta Vikram
5.0 out of 5 stars An well woven tale that occasionally nudges Marriages
I reread this work in a later context of the end of the tiger saga and the travails of the Tamizh ...the silence in her stories are stunning. Read more
Published on June 12, 2009 by M. Venketraman
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling
In "Love Marriage" V.V. Ganeshananthan has given us a very painterly portrait of a Sri Lankan Tamil family's weave of relationship, and experiences that transform both family and... Read more
Published on May 18, 2009 by Robert Berg
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tamil diaspora and marriage
Having lived almost two decades in the Jaffna Peninsula of Sri Lanka, I wa very pleased to find the novel a very accurate statement of the background of the current conflict... Read more
Published on May 5, 2009 by Robert G. Porter
1.0 out of 5 stars Love marriage?????????????
Having read the book, I am still wondering why the title "Love Marriage"?
The book talks about marriages of several generations but not one of them was a love marriage... Read more
Published on February 19, 2009 by K. Ismail
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone interested in SE Asian culture, marriage and...
This is an excellent book that weaves the dynamic of a family's history of relationships in the backdrop of an ethnic civil war in Sri Lanka. Read more
Published on January 26, 2009 by N. Gunaratnam
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Marriage
Love Marriage is the first novel of promising young writer V.V. Ganeshananthan. What began as her Harvard senior thesis has blossomed into a multi-generational, multicultural tale... Read more
Published on November 30, 2008 by E. Dorney
5.0 out of 5 stars immigrant's inner struggle for identity
Book review by James Otis Rodner

Love marriage

By V.V. Ganeshananthan

If you are interested in the difficulties that many immigrants suffer when... Read more
Published on November 2, 2008 by Maximus
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More About the Author

V.V. Ganeshananthan grew up in Maryland and is a graduate of Harvard College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, Sepia Mutiny, Himal Southasian, and The American Prospect, among others. She currently serves on the board of the Asian American Writers' Workshop.

Random House published her first novel, Love Marriage, in April 2008. The book was longlisted for the Orange Prize and named one of Washington Post Book World's Best of 2008, as well as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick. It has been translated into several languages.

She now teaches at the University of Michigan, where she is the Zell Visiting Professor of Creative Writing. For more information, visit


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