Everything else.. What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera

What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera

2020 Jul 31

A gripping tale of one woman’s slow descent into madness which causes her to commit one terrible act. What Lies Between Us is a novel that will have you clutching its pages, rapidly skimming through the words to find out what is to come. 

Set in the idyllic hill country of Sri Lanka, Nayomi Munaweera does a fantastic job of slowly introducing undercurrents of terror to her readers, revealing cracks in what, at first, appears to be a perfect childhood. Written from the confines of her jail cell, the protagonist Ganga sets an ominous tone that continues throughout the novel, talking about, but not revealing her crime, and stating how it is impossible to succeed at motherhood. Pressured into perfection by her unpredictable mother “Only you to love me. So you must love me double, triple, quadruple hard. Do you see?” The tensions between Ganga and her own mother are made obvious a few pages in. The joy and anxiety that she juggles throughout her childhood reaches a climax when tragedy strikes. 

A sudden relocation results in a drastic change of scene. Ganga lives out the American dream, graduating from college and kick starting her career as a nurse. However, the wounds of her past follow her overseas and it is not long before sadness seeps into her life again. The theme of the constant fluctuation between joy and anxiety surfaces once again as she falls in love, this time making itself harshly obvious and demanding a constant presence in her life. Happy occasions like falling in love and pregnancy are plagued with her childhood trauma. The reader is taken through a heartbreaking unfolding of events, eventually bringing them into the jarring final few pages of the book, where she commits an act that will change her life forever. 

What is truly intriguing about this tale is the way that the ripples of joy and anxiety mimics the flowing motion of water. An element that is associated with the most defining moments of the protagonist’s life. Nayomi Munaweera delivers a final blow to her reader by revealing her name to be ‘Ganga’, meaning ‘river’ in Sinhalese.  

‘What Lies Between Us’ isn’t a light read. It delivers blow after blow and will put you through emotional turmoil. This novel has the ability to keep you turning page after page, deeper and deeper into Ganga’s melancholy-tinged tale, unable to put the book down. The novel goes far beyond one woman’s story, revealing issues that are still present in modern society and foreshadowing their effects, if not addressed properly.  Re-reading the novel will also bring to light some foreshadowing, making it possible to read over and over again. Expect the unexpected with Nayomi Munaweera’s extraordinary ability to weave threads of emotion to deliver a truly captivating story.