Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tell a Thousand Lies...And See What Happens

This week I'm happy to review Rasana Atyeya's hard-to-tear-the-eyes-from first novel, which was shortlisted  for the Tibor Jones South Asia Prize in 2012.  Tell a Thousand Lies  traces the dizzying fallout when traditional Indian marriage plans run afoul of a rebellious young bride and a malignant politician.
Available as paperback and ebook
16-year old Pullama may be considered ineligible for marriage because of her tall frame and dark skin, but she's more shocked than anyone in the village to find herself being worshiped as a goddess.   (It's exhausting, sitting in state on that bumpy silver chair.)  She is not the rebellious bride, however--her twin sister Latta is.
The twins' grandmother, Ammamma, ably pulls off a trifecta by arranging marriages for all three of her granddaughters, despite her poverty and the demands of dowry--the goal of Pullama's marriage to the dreamy and long-suffering Srikar being to rescue her from the goddess setup orchestrated by the dastardly politician Kondal Rao.
Scheming is the MO of all the characters in the novel. Mayhem springs forth, from kidnappings to blackmail to revelations of secret relatives to forced husband-swapping. From beginning to end, the power volleys between  level-headed Pullama, the borderline Latta, and the buffoonish politico, Kondal Rao.  Ammamma's nuanced, complex, but settled character provides the reader with a welcome breather from all that intensity.
The story's precipitating event is Latta's desertion of a wildly inappropriate husband --or, wait, is it actually fired off by Latta's out-off-wedlock pregnancy, or does it result from the twins' older sister Malli's "bridal viewing," in which a prospective bride is displayed for the first time to the groom's family? --In a book this crammed with calamitous events, it's hard to keep track of them all.
I found myself  unable to stop reading, even as I complained about the book's relentless pace and the unconvincing, puppeteer villain. I'm still not sure whether or not Atreya intended to write a farce.  Still, she tells a whomping good story, and like the savvy Pullama,  Atreya knows how to reassemble her own broken pieces to create a vivid tale that won't let you go.
Possibly the world's coolest tree
Courtesy of
For the reader unacquainted with rural life in India, the book is eye-opening, rich in detail about a way of life that's prevailed for thousands of years.  Clearly, democratization, the women's movement, and pride in one's natural skin tone haven't yet made their way under the shadow of the banyan tree in Pullama's village.  Yet in the book's upbeat ending, Atreya assures us that women of spirit and intelligence can triumph over injustice, even if their "fairness creams" are ineffective.
Rasana Atreya's website and blog


Kelly Hashway said...

That really is the coolest tree ever! The book sounds really good, too.

Helen W. Mallon said...

It was a fun read! Glad for the visit, Kelly (my "real" blog is at Wordpress--I reposted here for complicated reasons...)

-b9 said...

You must be from Seattle, dear, for lies are the part-N-parcel of liberalism. Bad news. Nevertheless, wherever thou ist, 1-outta-1 croaks... then, we must face our Divine Judgement. Telln lies wherever doesn't allow you Seventh-Heaven where I shall be. If you wanna ascend fo'eva after your lifelong demise, ya better follow our journey... Follow me.

Lemme help you conquer the conundrums: dunno if you're interested in the length and breadth of eternity, yet, lemme fill-you-up withe avant-gardeness and wisdom necessary to achieve Seventh-Heaven. Not everyone knows, dear...

Wanna find-out the fax, Jak, in a wurld fulla the 'power of cowards'? Wanna wiseabove to help a 'Plethora Of Wurdz' [POW!] which are look'n for a new home in thy novelty??

Q: But [gulp] can anyone tell me the difference between K2 plus IQ? A: Nthn. In Heaven, we gitt'm both for eternity HeeHee Need a few more thots, ideers, wild wurdz (whoa, Nelly! easy, girl) or ironclad iconoclasms?

VERBUM SAT SAPIENTI: As an ex-writer of the sassy, savvy, schizophenia we all go thro in this lifelong demise, I wanna help U.S. git past ping-pong-politics, the whorizontal more!ass! we're in (Latin: words to [the] wise)...

"This finite existence is only a test, son," God Almighty told me in my coma. "Far beyond thy earthly tempest is where you'll find tangible, corpulent eloquence". Lemme tella youse without d'New Joisey accent...

I actually saw Seventh-Heaven when we died: you couldn't GET! any moe curly, party-hardy-endorphins, extravagantly-surplus-lush Upstairs (in [the] end without end -Saint Augustine) when my o-so-beautifull, brilliant, bombastic girly passed-away due to those wry, sardonic satires.

"Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the Heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightousness as bright as stars for all eternity" -Daniel 12:3, NJB

Here's also what the prolific, exquisite GODy sed: 'the more you shall honor Me, the more I shall bless you' -the Infant Jesus of Prague.

Go gitt'm, girl. You're incredible. See you Upstairs. I won't be joining'm in the nasty Abyss where Isis prowls
PS Need summore unique, uncivilized, useless names? Lemme gonna gitcha started, brudda:

Oak Woods, Franky Sparks, Athena Noble, Autumn Rose, Faith Bishop, Dolly Martin, Willow Rhodes, Cocoa Major, Roman Stone, Bullwark Burnhart, Magnus Wilde, Kardiak Arrest, Will Wright, Goldy Silvers, Penelope Summers, Sophie Sharp, Violet Snow, Lizzy Roach, BoxxaRoxx, Aunty Dotey, Romero Stark, Zacharia Neptoo, Mercurio Morrissey, Fritz & Felix Franz, Victor Payne, Isabella Silverstein, Mercedes Kennedy, Redding Rust, Phoenix Martini, Ivy Squire, Sauer Wolfe, Yankee Cooky, Young Kook, -blessed b9...

God blessa youse
-Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL