The Choice to Stay: SJ Sindu’s “Marriage of a Thousand Lies”

By Sarah Hoenicke for the LA Review of Books

Marriage-of-a-Thousand-Lies-imageTO BE WHO SHE IS AND NOT DISAPPEAR — this is the great challenge for Lucky (Lakshmi), the main character of SJ Sindu’s debut, Marriage of a Thousand Lies (Soho, June 2017). The marriage ostensibly central to the book is that of Lucky and Kris (Krishna); the two met in college where Lucky knew Kris as “the other South Asian queer on campus.” They are companionable, though they are sometimes distant and spiteful with each other, carrying out the emotional byproducts of their loveless union. Both from traditional South Asian families, they are outwardly a happy heterosexual pair busily fulfilling Lucky’s parents’ expectations. Kris came out to his own family, and they disowned him; he and Lucky bonded over this, their “proximity to the cliff,” their “danger of falling.” Alone or in more accepting locales — gay bars, on the rugby field, at home — they express their irreligiosity, true sexualities, and their frustrations with the restrictive gender expectations and the sexism of their culture.

In marrying, they took the complications of their identities and fit them into a construct they could live by and be understood within the Boston Tamil community, to which Lucky’s family belongs; by moving to Bridgeport after getting married, they granted themselves a small measure of freedom. This geographic separation will prove inadequate. Their marriage cannot save them — it blocks them from fully realizing their truer selves, from the lives they wish they were living. Lucky’s marriage to Kris, though essential to the story line, isn’t what drives the book. Called home to her mother’s house when her grandmother falls and must be cared for, Lucky gets caught up in a quasi-relationship with her high school best friend, Nisha (with whom she’d had a young fling). Nisha, who is engaged to a man, strings Lucky along, noncommittal, yet desperate to be released from the life in which she feels entrapped.

Marriage is replete with characters spouting outdated and false ideas about homosexuality. Lucky’s parents are highly educated and well employed. They belong to a community that is progressive enough to vote for Obama, and yet so old fashioned as to expect that men and women will converse in separate rooms at social gatherings. The women commune in the kitchen, discussing children, household problems, and the like. The men retire to another room to smoke, drink, and discuss politics. This community changes the channel when homosexuality is mentioned, believing it to be a decision, a predilection, which the gay person can grow out of.

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