Good books make you feel: nostalgia, fear, joy. Great books give words to a feeling you held deep within yourself but couldn’t name. Marriage of a Thousand Lies is one of the latter.
A lot of Marriage of a Thousand Lies’s plot revolves around the main character, Lucky, trying to express her queer identity and remain close to her conservative family. To appear respectable to her marriage-focused Tamil family, she marries a gay man as a beard. She struggles to keep her two worlds separate as she stays at her mother’s house to take care of her ailing grandmother and reconnects with an old childhood friend (and ex-lover).
Sindu’s portrayal of the emotional trauma of constantly keeping up a fake life was visceral and spot on. We never see Lucky’s thoughts. Throughout the first half of the book, she has very little drive, letting events sweep her along. She is depressed, but it’s not a sobbing on the couch sort of depression. It’s more of a sleepwalking through life sort of thing. Sindu writes about her as if she is an object being acted upon instead of a person with control over her life. My parents thought I was in a heterosexual marriage with my partner for years before I came out. And trying to relate to a world that thinks you’re someone you’re not is… depersonalizing at best. You cease to exist and only the mask survives. Oftentimes you find yourself just moving through life on autopilot. The reflection in the mirror doesn’t look like you anymore.
Luckily, in this case, it gets better. At its heart, Marriage of a Thousand Lies is a novel about coming out and embracing all of yourself: family and friends and past included. This is the kind of queer coming-out novel we need in 2017, one where the hero hasn’t known since childhood. One where being gay doesn’t mean you’re never attracted to people of other genders. One where family complicates things and the ending isn’t binary, black-and-white, clearly defined. SJ Sindu reminded me that I am valid and not alone, and I can’t wait for her next novel.