'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. In reality, there is a whole spectrum in between, but most of us spend years running away from the first towards the second. 'Among the categories that bleed outside these two carefully delineated boundaries: the Self-Arranged Marriage, the Outside Marriage, the Cousin Marriage, the Village Marriage, the Marriage Abroad. there is the Marriage Without Consent. There is the Marriage Under Pressure. There is even Marrying the Enemy, who, it turns out, is not the Enemy at all.' Reverse a family tree and branches of blood are whittled down to one person - in this case, the young female narrator, Yalini - composed of all the women and men who came before her; the result of many marriages. Parents want nothing more than to prevent their children from colliding with inevitability: that in a different world, there is a different kind of marriage.
Yet Tamil and Sinhalese parents - particularly after the great ethnic violence in Sri Lanka in 1983 - watch helplessly as their children cut themselves free of the need to please their ancestors. They walked out of the country to give their children opportunity, but this was not the opportunity they intended them to take: Western marriage. 'We live by our own wits, our own hearts, and our own histories; there is no other way to survive here, and some have learned to love people who do not worship our gods, eat our food, share our blood.' For Yalini and her generation, they are the children of their parents, but have entered other countries in which the rules of marriage - Love Marriage, Arranged Marriage, and all that lies in between - dramatically do not apply.
V.V (Sugi) Ganeshananthan's writing has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and the American Prospect. She is a graduate of Harvard College, the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and is currently teaching at Columbia University, New York. This is her first novel.