The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam
Flatiron Books, 2016; 208 pp
Reviewed by Charlie Riccardelli
Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage is a startlingly assured debut novel: spare in story yet drawing from a rich emotional vein thanks to the author’s vivid recreation of a Sri Lankan civil war. The novel follows Dinesh, an evacuee serving any function he can to help others in a makeshift camp on a beach. Throughout the course of the day in which the book is set, Dinesh contends with regular bombings by the advancing army, gathers limbs from those injured or killed in the attacks, and marries a woman he’s only just met. In telling the story over such a short timeframe, Arudpragasam injects The Story of a Brief Marriage with both immediacy and intimacy. Dinesh does not have the luxury of planning a future when his and the other evacuees' lives could end at any moment. Each of Dinesh’s actions bears tremendous weight as to his survival, including this brief marriage—which was meant to help him avoid conscription but may well be the most intimate relationship he’ll ever get if war continues to rage on around him.