Excerpt from Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Island of a Thousand Mirrors

by Nayomi Munaweera

Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera X
Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 224 pages
    Jan 2016, 256 pages


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She is unmarried for obvious reasons. She has been living with her aged parents, taking care of them. But in the last year there has been trouble. The men are vague. They will not specify. The Judge thunders, "What is this nonsense? You have brought a fallen hunchback woman to my house?"

The men shift on their haunches. One says, "She can cook and also clean . . . only take her as a servant."

The woman is silent, her eyes pulled earthward. But there must have been some mute appeal implicit in the twisting of her large-knuckled hands because now, Sylvia Sunethra, twelve years younger than her husband, but already becoming the ironhanded matriarch of her later years, says, "I will take her."

The Judge is aghast. But there is something in his wife's eye that threatens unknown violence if he does not comply. So as the men breathe sighs of relief, he says only, "Alright. She can stay and join the staff. But one problem and I will send her packing."

The men leave, and Alice is installed somewhere between family member and servant. She sleeps on a mat outside Sylvia Sunethra's bedroom. For three months, her face is a study in impassivity, she moves as if in a sleepwalk, and not even the crashing of a dish just behind her causes the slightest of reactions. Finally Sylvia Sunethra, annoyed beyond endurance, says, "Oh, enough with this long face all the time. Tell them to bring the child."

The very next week, a wizened woman arrives at the gate. From within her sari folds comes a hungry, kittenish mewing and now Alice goes about her day laughing and with a baby clinging to her breast. At night, mother and infant fall asleep, rolled together outside Sylvia Sunethra's door, and even the Judge, afraid of the venom of his wife's tongue, dares not question the origins of this baby that Sylvia Sunethra has decided to shelter along with its wayward mother. It is in this way that we who are not yet born acquire Alice, that beloved Quasimodo of our childhoods, and also her son, Dilshan.

Excerpted from Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera. Copyright © 2014 by Nayomi Munaweera. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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