***WARNING! This review may or may not contain spoilers. If you wish to read a book with fresh eyes and no bias, do not read any information on the internet about said book, including this review.
I recently finished the book What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera. Nayomi Munaweera was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Nigeria. She eventually came to the US when she was a teenager. She is also the author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors, which won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region.
I was recommended this book by one of those book lists that you get form Pinterest. I am always looking for a novel to read in between all the of the series books I read. It is nice to get a little break form the same characters and same writing style of my “go-to” authors.
So I checked this book out of the library and read the first couple pages. I was immediately put on edge. In the prologue it told a story about a mother bear who heard her cub crying out as they were caged up and having their bile stolen from them for its medicinal purposes. She escaped her cage not to maul the humans, but to run to her child, strangle it, and then bash her head until she died. It explained that it is all we need to know about a relationship between a mother and her child. As a mom of 5, it was hard for me to read this. It gave me that sick feeling in my stomach you get when you are disgusted from the inside out. But someone on Pinterest really liked it…enough to recommend it to everyone else as a “must-read”. So I pushed on.
Then in the first chapter you realize that she is telling this story from her prison cell. I kept thinking….”no, she couldn’t. What situation would be bad enough that you would kill your own child?” So I was curious to find out if she actually did what the prologue implied.
The book starts with the birth of the narrator in Sri Lanka, which I knew nothing about until the tsunami a couple years back. So I was interested in the way of life, how different it was than in America (which is what most non-Americans call the US….which I think is funny. The fact that people still think of the US as some magical place where opportunity is just around the corner, all your dreams come true, and the beer flows like wine…a little Dumb and Dumber quote there lol. But the truth is, for most of the other nations, this is still probably true).
The story then goes on to describe the way of life in Sri Lanka. The differences between America and Sri Lanka are so striking, yet it seems so familiar. The sense of family, the troubles you go through as a child, even the dynamic of the family. It leads readers to connect to the character, no matter what background.
But the troubles the narrator has are horrendous. They are something no little child should go through. She appears to handle the fears and horrors until the night she lost her father who drown in the river that ran by her house. After that incident, the community turned their backs on them. They were talked about behind their backs, and worst of all, they were pitied.
So the narrator and her mother immigrated to America and stayed with family. Soon the narrator found a wonderful man, got married, and had a beautiful baby girl. It seemed she had everything she wanted, but her demons wouldn’t let her go. She realized who was truly behind her distant horrific memories and couldn’t take it any longer, she feared for her daughter’s safety. And yes, she did it. She committed the unforgivable act, which lands her in her jail cell.
Although the story ended the way I didn’t want, it shed light on some major topics. It talked about how, as mothers we compare to each other, thinking we are better or worse. We shame those who mother differently than us. We pity those who do not know the difference. This book calls every mother to look at herself and evaluate her own demons. It made me look at my life and realize that I was letting some of those demons effect my children. I would be angry at things that have nothing to do with them, but would take it out on them.
It also shed light on a few issues that most of the world turns a blind eye to. I believe she probably had PTSD from the years of abuse and the night her father died. Then going to a new country and struggling to fit in. Then she has a baby which throws her hormones off. The way she describes her feelings, and the way her mother treated her when she was little seems like postpartum depression. Another buzz word that seems to be looked down upon. But without those issues being dealt with, look what it led to.
This is a fiction novel, but very well could be someone’s true story somewhere. Maybe a different time, or details slightly changed. But this could be any mother out there struggling. So we must drop the judging and comparing. We need to start lifting each other up. As mothers we all struggle, and we all fail (I know I have plenty of times!). But the last thing we need is guilt piled on the stress. So today, go find another mother, one that you don’t know, and give them a compliment….anything, just some kind word in her day of craziness. You will make her day!
Until next time, happy reading!
Want to check the book out for yourself? Get it HERE!