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Love Marriage: A Novel Paperback – April 8, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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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.)
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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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066698
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Meenadchi Chelvakumar on April 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
I read this book nearly six years ago and have had a great deal of difficulty getting a handle on the overarching theme. I will admit that, if nothing else, it educated me about the political unrest in Sri Lanka that has been ongoing for over thirty years. A fact most Westerners seem to be blissfully unaware of. I was able to learn more about the Tamil Tigers, the militant Sri Lankan rebel group, about whom I had only minimal knowledge based on my familiarity with the Sri Lankan hip-hop artist M.I.A.

Basically, it's the story of Yalini, the American-born daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants (who are the "love marriage" couple of the book's title). When her dying uncle, a Tamil Tiger rebel, comes to Toronto to live out his final days, she takes time off school to help care for him. Through conversations with him, his militant daughter Jenani, as well as her parents, she learns the history of her family and their war-torn nation.

The family stories are told as short vignettes, almost like fables. Through these tales Yalini sees that there are many different types of unions, not merely a "Love Marriage" or an "Arranged Marriage." There is the Outside Marriage, the Cousin Marriage, the Self-Arranged Marriage, the Marriage without Consent, Marriage under Pressure and Marrying the Enemy. Both Yalini and the reader begin to understand that, in life, things are never merely one thing or another. There are many shades of grey in between. While reading of these various unions, I couldn't help but wonder if the author wasn't trying to comprehend the seemingly irreconcilable relationship between the Tamils and Sinhalese (who control the government and its oppressive regime).

Ganeshananthan is an effective story-teller.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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