Tell a Thousand Lies
By Rasana Atreya
What can you do if you are a poor girl living in rural India to change your future?
If you are light skinned, pretty and not too well educated your future as a wife will be assured. Your family will be able to find a husband for you even if you don't have much of a dowry. You know what is expected of you. Treat your husband like a prince, please your mother-in-law, dote on your sons and lament the birth of your daughters. The pattern is in place and you have been trained all your life to follow it like generations of girls before you.
But what if you are not light skinned, pretty, have a good dowry or come from a prominent family? Who will marry you when you have nothing of value to add to another family? Where does your future lie. Will you be the one who stays at home to take care of your family in their old age? Will you watch your friends marry and leave their homes behind while you stay static?
Can a light-skinned, pretty, overly educated girl find another path? One that leads to the city and an education in medicine. Or is the future etched so deeply in stone that the ability to change it is too overwhelming?
Three teenaged sisters, twins Lata and Pallamma, and their older sister Malli find the paths chosen for them by tradition and family circumstance changed in an instant. Not by fate and not by accident but by the scheming machinations of a politician who sees a chance to use the sisters to his own ends. His interference leads each sister down a path she has not chosen, changing not only their futures but the lives of their family, friends, villagers and the men each of them will marry.
But "Tell a Thousand Lies" is not only the story of three sisters coming of age in a rural village in India. It is the story of an ancient land, traditions followed for centuries, corrupt politicians, hardship, broken hearts and redemption. The story of a culture so steeped in tradition it turns on itself and destroys its own young.
This is a beautifully written story. The author's ability to set the scene is so strong you feel like you are standing beside the characters as they live their daily lives. The descriptions of the land and the people pull you into the charm and the dichotomy that is India. The story is both life affirming and heart-breaking with a realism that leaves you wondering if these people are characters in a novel or are they real.
Ms. Atreya has given us a tightly written, well-paced story. Her characters are well drawn, fully complete and believable. She crosses all her t's and dots all her I's making sure all loose ends are tied up by the end of the story and the resolution is both believable and inevitable without a literary "miracle" to give everyone a happy ever after.
I highly recommend this book for both young adults and adults of all ages. It is a coming of age novel in the best sense and adult literature in its fullness and complexity.
Karen Bryant Doering