In Marriage of a Thousand Lies, Lucky, the restless romantic, ruminates on queerness and notes that, “most people think the closet is a small room. They think you can touch the wall, touch the door, turn the handle, and walk free. But when you’re inside it, the closet is so vast. No walls, no doors, just empty darkness stretching the length of the world.” She feels both suffocated by and alone in her attractions, constantly struggling to abate this darkness while also maintaining relationships with her Sri Lankan community and family.
Lucky is the relatable outsider, the one who hides a flask in her sari and attempts to upend gender norms by sitting with the men at wedding functions. She wears short-sleeved button-ups and a cropped hairstyle and hates every time her mother makes her wear a sari, even though she always relents. She’s also in love with Nisha, and continues to pursue her, even when it is not clear that Lucky has a place in Nisha’s life.
Nisha, on the other hand, has never tried to push her parents’ boundaries and is an expert at leading two separate lives: one where she has agreed to marry a man, and the other where she and Lucky sneak off to have sex in their old high school’s gym. She melts into the traditionally feminine roles that Lucky feels so uncomfortable in, but just as easily shrugs them off when she is not around her community.
This story is not a typical coming-of-age novel about a girl who discovers her sexuality and has a happy ending. It picks up in the middle of a woman’s life who already knows she is gay, has attempted to come out to her family with disastrous results, and is trying to navigate a life where she can be true to who she is while still being accepted by her family. S. J. Sindu beautifully illuminates the fine lines between the gratefulness Lucky feels for her parents who have worked hard to provide better opportunities, and the ensuing responsibility she feels to them to uphold their expectations and desire for her life, without ignoring her own hopes and dreams.
The differences in the way Lucky and Nisha approach their respective sexualities is a constant tension in their relationship, but Sindu makes sure to not endorse one approach over the other. Instead, she weaves together the vast complexities of sexuality while commenting on the intricacies that can arise when being brown and queer. Will you be accepted in your community if you come out? How will going with or against your parents’ wishes affect your relationships? Is it possible to carve a door through this closeted darkness, and what happens on the other side?
The narrative through which these issues emerge is compelling but not necessarily conclusive, which is exactly the point. Sindu leaves these questions open-ended, inviting the reader to reflect on the choices made and the problems unsolved. This book reminds us that the answers we seek are not always straightforward. Sindu’s writing relishes in the messiness of family, in the uncertainty of love, and the hardships of life. She brings the identities of queerness and brownness together in a beautiful and captivating way.