Island of a Thousand Mirrors
By Nayomi Munaweera
St. Martin’s Press, 2014
I first read about Island of a Thousand Mirrors when it published in South Asia two years ago, and waited, with much anticipation, for it to come out in the U.S. I was not disappointed; this book is one of my favorite debuts of 2014.
Set in Sri Lanka, and the U.S., Island of a Thousand Mirrors tells the story of two Sri Lankan families, one Tamil and the other Sinhalese, whose lives and histories intersect over the course of three generations. The book begins as a family history in 1948, right after independence. For many years the Tamil and Sinhala populations lived together amicably, and during that time, Yasodhara (the narrator of the book) and Shiva are born to two families who live in tandem, from the two cultures of the island. The two grow up together until 1983 when the civil war begins and the differences between the Tamils and Sinhalese tear the country, and their two families, apart. Yasodhara’s family eventually moves to the United States, where she grows up in LA. The second part of the book tells the story of a female Tamil fighter and the lives of Shiva and Yasodhara as young adults. I don’t want to give away too much of what happens in the second part, but I found the ending to be satisfying and powerful.
I liked how Munaweera deftly mixed multiple genres, telling a multi-family history, an immigrant story and the story of the Sri Lankan civil war. I am familiar with the civil war in Sri Lanka, but never understood the roots of the conflict until I read this book. I enjoyed it as both a family story and a window into a nation’s history.
Munaweera lives in San Francisco.
I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.