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The Memory of Loss by Rizvina Dr Alwis
Every person has a past. Not every person, however, has a past that they want to keep secret from the man they love. While Sabina’s countenance gives nothing away, she carries within her the scars of a secret that continues to gnaw into her present, eating away at the love and happiness she has found in Shehan.
A beautifully woven tale of love, togetherness and despair, The Memory of Loss is set against the background of leafy suburban Colombo and raunchy Bangkok, and walks the reader through nearly three decades beginning in the early 1970s.
It is the story of several women, each different in her own way, each suffering in her own way. But foremost it is the story of Sabi, the younger child of Saira and Rizwan, who live in Colombo with her and their older son Jehan. All is well till Rosy, a stunning looking girl from an economically weak background, is coaxed into the care of Sabi’s family by Rosy’s mother, who believes her to be a ‘gigi gigi’ girl whose good looks would bring ruin upon her. Little does Rosy’s mother know the prophetic nature of her own words. Part helper, part companion, Rosy moves into Sabi’s house and unwittingly alters the balance of a seemingly well-poised family.
Sabi knowing, observing, always eaves-dropping loves Rosy, but as she grows older becomes wary of her charms and eventually horrified by what she learns has been going on behind closed doors in her own house. As Sabi’s memories weave the intricate tapestry of her life and the people that populate it, like a needle moving in and out of cloth, her story moves between the past and the present. The togetherness, security and love she experiences as Sri Lanka comes to a boil and the LTTE is born, the time she falls for the charms of Omar while Charles marries Diana, when riots tear Colombo apart and close friends and neighbours migrate to foreign lands. Her own marriage with Shehan and the burden of that one balmy, humid night that slowly but surely continues to pull her further and further away from him.
What shameful, painful secret does Sabi carry in her heart? The secret that makes Jehan flee to the safety of London? The night about which she wants to but cannot talk to Shehan, deepening the chasm that has opened up in their relationship.
The Memory of Loss deals with Sabi’s raw pain and sense of loss that overshadows nearly everything else in her life. It is the story of the immense tragedy that one callous, angry action can set into motion.
It is also the story of the choices people have and those they make. Of regrets in the past and making amends in the future, of giving yourself a real chance at happiness, of giving life purpose.
Rizvina Morseth de Alwis was born in Sri Lanka, went to graduate school in London and works for the United Nations. She has lived in a number of countries in Asia, among them Thailand, Laos, DPR Korea and Cambodia. As a development professional she loves traveling to places that one wouldn’t normally chose to go to and is passionate about gender equality and women’s rights. She seeks to contribute to women’s empowerment through her work, her writing and storytelling. While she has written and published on gender and development issues, she believes in the power of stories to change lives. Her debut novel, It’s not in the Stars won the Fairway National Literary Award 2015 and the State Literary Award 2015. The Memory of Loss is her second novel.