I received a review copy of “Tell a Thousand Lies” from the author, Rasana Atreya, in exchange for an honest review. The novel was shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia prize and was nominated for the 2012 Global eBook Awards.
“Tell a Thousand Lies” is the story of twin sisters growing up in a village in India in the 1980s. In this culture, skin color plays a major role whether a girl will be able to make a good match. Pullama, the protagonist, is dark-skinned and knows that she probably will not find a suitable husband. Her sister Lata is pale and beautiful, but she doesn’t want to get married, but instead dreams of becoming a doctor. Pullama’s world is turned upside down when a corrupt politician preys on the superstitions of the villagers and convinces them that she is a goddess in order to increase his chance of winning the upcoming elections. Pullama and Lata find their roles reversed, and Lata’s simmering resentment threatens everything that Pullama has ever held dear.
“Tell a Thousand Lies” is an extremely well-written novel. I’m often skeptical of self-published books, but this is one of the good ones, with none of the typos and editing errors that often plague other indie books. I mention this because editing is one of my pet peeves, and in that respect this book went above and beyond my expectations.
Pullama’s story was compelling and gave me insight into a culture that I don’t know much about. I do think that the whole goddess thing might be bit of an exaggeration of village superstitions, but at the same time I was pleased that we got to see Pullama live in a more modern city so that we could contrast city and village life.
I particularly enjoyed the insight into the dynamics of family life. Pullama’s mother is dead, but her grandmother fills the gap and is therefore in charge of finding the girls suitable marriages. We can see that the grandmother truly cares for them, but at the same time she is caught up in a village mentality and is afraid to let the girls get too much education or to pursue a different path. We also see changing relationship between the two sisters as Lata becomes resentful and bitter about her fate and becomes jealous of Pullama.
Parts of the novel were heartbreaking, especially with regards to Pullama’s husband and children, but the story does have a happy ending. The villain, Kondal Rao, is someone who is truly despicable and thinks nothing of ruining other people’s lives for his own gain.
I would recommend “Tell a Thousand Lies” for anyone who’s interested in learning more about Indian culture.