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What Lies Between Us

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,867 ratings  ·  412 reviews
In the idyllic hill country of Sri Lanka, a young girl grows up with her loving family; but even in the midst of this paradise, terror lurks in the shadows. When tragedy strikes, she and her mother must seek safety by immigrating to America. There the girl reinvents herself as an American teenager to survive, with the help of her cousin; but even as she assimilates and thr ...more
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published February 16th 2016 by St. Martin's Press
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Nayomi Hi David- it took about 4-5 years to write. I think I got the first glimmer of the idea in 2010. Thank you for reading!

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Average rating 3.91  · 
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Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't know if I just started paying more attention to book covers or if they have just gotten so much better but I've seen some fantastic covers recently. I love the cover on this one. Gorgeous!!!

The book begins with an unnamed woman sitting in her jail cell. She confesses to us how she has done the unthinkable, that she is the worst thing possible. That she is a bad mother. However, she tells us that we only think we know her story and why she did what she did. That she will tell us her stor
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was hypnotized by Munaweera's prose in an Island of a Thousand Mirrors. She again skillfully and masterfully sweeps us into the lush island of Sri Lanka. But the beauty of the island is contrasted by the horrific and unimaginable crime that is committed against a child and the story unfolds across continents as a confession is told.

The narrative begins with Ganga's childhood. Except we are never told her name until it is revealed at the end, told from the confines of her cell. She reflects on
Angela M
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In the beginning we meet a woman whose name we do not know . She's in prison and we don't know why but she is about to tell us . I wanted to read this because I loved the author's debut novel , Island of a Thousand Mirrors. The writing is even more beautiful, more rich in description and I found myself in Sri Lanka once again.

These seem to be quiet days in the life of a young girl, from a privileged family. Although her mother grew up in poverty , her father is a university professor and they li
Diane S ☔
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
The long reach of the past and the unreliability of memory are two prominent themes of this novel. Our unnamed narrator, though in Sri Lanka she was known as baby Madame, is the main character and we follow her life from a young child in Sri Lanka to adulthood in the USA. From the beginning we know she has done something terrible but we don't know why or how. This is one of those books that I believe the less said the better.

So I will just say the descriptions are lush, the prose is amazing and
Joce (squibblesreads)
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My heart has been ripped out of my chest. This is absolutely one of my favorite books of the year. I was writing quotes down in a notebook that I didn’t want to forget and I had to stop because I was basically writing the entire book down. The author accomplishes so much with just one word choice, one phrase, one sentence. This, to me, is a sign of impeccable writing. It’s clean, crisp, and tight, yet deep and layered. To have 300 pages of this emotional turbulence
Elyse  Walters
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful descriptions of Sri Lanka and San Francisco....where the main character
immigrates as a young girl with her widowed mother after the horrific death of her father.
Desperately trying to assimilate to American ways - her past secrets follow her - which leads to tragedy.

The story is told in first person present tense.....making the storytelling very intimate - more emotional - and more horrendous.

The ending is presented to us at the start least we are 95% sure anyway...but as we d
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
The reader knows WHAT LIES BETWEEN US will end badly from the very start with the confession of an incarcerated, disturbed mother who commits an unforgivable crime believing she is performing the act of a savior. This beautifully written novel of abuse and tragedy begins in Sri Lanka with the mother's own story as a young girl, and continues as they move to America out of necessity and hope for a better future.

This is not a particularly enjoyable read, but one filled with the anguish and despair

Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an exceptional piece of writing that draws you in with it's subtlety and exceptional charactors.

Told in first person, the first chapter opens with an unnamed woman in prison. She admits to what put her there, and it's a horrible, horrible crime. But its hard to feel the weight of her crime so early on, not knowing who she is, how or why it happened. But not to worry, because she has decided to share her story, which starts early on, when she is just a baby herself...

So starts the rest of
Nov 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
You know a book affects you when it ends with real tears running down your cheeks. What Lies Between Us is so sad. You know from the very start that it is going to be sad. The first person unnamed narrator informs you at the beginning that she is locked up and that she has killed her own child. From there, she recounts the path that led to this horrendous act. The first part of the story is set in Sri Lanka, where the narrator lives in a troubled household. Bad things happen to her, and bad thin ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016-books
This is a highly-affecting and emotional book that keeps getting better with each turn of the page.

We meet our un-named narrator at the beginning of the story, and know that something bad has happened, but we don't know exactly why or how. Starting at the beginning of her story we learn about her life -- as she remembers it. Told with lyrical language, the story is at once beautiful and melancholy. Munaweera tackles subjects that are heartbreaking and taboo.

Others have mentioned, and I agree, th
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
When you’re a passionate reader – as I am – you inevitably begin to compare one book to another. In the past two or three years, I’ve read a number of books with a similar structure: the first part is a coming-of-age narrative that takes place in an exotic native locale (Nigeria, Uganda, Sri Lanka). The second part takes the now-grown narrator (usually female) to America, where she experiences culture shock and feels like a stranger in a strange land. Inevitably, part one is more compelling than ...more
“So much happens before we are born. We come into being in the middle of the narrative, midway through stories that have been unfolding long before us. We totter in on our fat infant feet and attempt to take our places on the stage, but we know only a fragment of the bewildering plotline, only a sliver of the odd characters we encounter. The big people have been practicing their lines and playing their parts for decades.”

How can a writer do this--share such complex feelings so simply and beaut
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first time reading a work by Nayomi Munaweera and what a, beautiful written, well crafted novel it was.
The writing style was new to me also. It was written in sharp staccato type paragraphs with each paragraph telling a tiny encapsulated story. It should have been confusing but, strangely, it wasn’t. It gave the story a sense of reality. It was like listening to someone telling a story who suddenly pauses because she has remembered something that should have told before. As I said ear
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018
The name of the protagonist/narrator is unknown through most of the book. What we do know is that she was an only child, born in Sri Lanka, where she experiences a personal tragedy while quite young. To escape a past that few locals would forgive and a future of uncertainty, her mother takes her to America; and what has happened is to be forgotten, swept under the rug and never discussed. But our girl is haunted and tormented by memories of the man who hurt her and who might just find her some d ...more
Marilyn C.
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I knew this book had me just by reading the story of the moon bear in the prologue. What a powerful and haunting book by Nayomi Munaweera. It is a beautifully written book that takes the reader through so many emotions- sadness, anger, shocked, heartbroken. This is not a happy novel. At times I had a knot in my stomach reading about how horrifying a young girls life can be in the hands of her own family members. Then feeling heartbroken that she cannot let go of her past and ends up doing the un ...more
Julie Christine
Stories thrive in the liminal state where perception meets evidence. This is the thematic heart of Nayomi Munaweera's novel What Lies Between Us; it is the very essence of a seemingly-unremarkable title. Between us lies the truth of our personal narrative and the truth of others' perceptions of us. Between us are the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we are told by others.

Ganga is a young girl raised in 1980s Sri Lanka, an island nation as lush with culture and history as it is with monsoon-s
The cover is an apt metaphor of the book, where water plays a significant role in multiple turning points in the novel and the image of a woman half-submerged, reminds me of that ability a person has of appearing to cope and be present on and above the surface, when beneath that calm exterior, below in the murky depths, unseen elements apply pressure, disturbing the tranquil image.

The prologue mentions the maternal instinct of a mother, to sacrifice for her young, describing the aptly named moon
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From the beginning we know that this woman in prison is damaged beyond repair. Then we travel back to her time as a child in the lush hills of Sri Lanka being raised by her parents and find that amid the tropical beauty some traumatic things are going on which send she and her Mother Amma fleeing to America. Here some things are better , and some of course are worse as the culture shock is very difficult. Later on she goes to college , becomes a nurse, and meets Daniel the man who appears to be ...more
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Nayomi Munaweera's spellbinding second novel concerns a young woman whose traumatic past in the Sri Lankan civil war was left behind, but its damage was inescapable. Man can she write--strong and lyrical and lush and biting, all at the same time. What I particularly like is Munaweera's sense of women and their destinies--in this book, she illustrates that motherhood isn't a pristine, isolated phenomenon, it's an aspect of a woman's entire experience and can't remain untouched by that. ...more
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, 2016
Wowww. That might be one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful books I've read in a long time. ...more
Wow. Wow. Wow.

I was just knocked out by this novel. Such a wonderful surprise as I read it not having any information about it except that a reader that I trust saying that it affected her as much as A Little Life.

And, boy, was she right! This is a book that is utterly engrossing and beautifully rendered. Uhhhh. I didn't want it to end. It overs so much ground - Sri Lankan cultural history (which I knew very little about so this novel opened a whole new world up to me) is a big focus but it's a
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a history of what we do to one another.

File this book under:
mental illness
you should have protected me
is it any wonder I turned out like this?
you’re culpable
i can’t breathe
you made it all about you
i never stood a chance
why didn’t you help me?
you never should have been a mother
i will never be ok

So much happens before we are born. We come into being in the middle of the narrative, midway through stories that have been unfolding long before us. We totter
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I haven’t been this emotionally destroyed by a book since A Little Life. And I’m having the same struggle now as I did then—how do you recommend a book that is so crushingly sad? How do you justify encouraging people to read a story certain to devastate them?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I am recommending this book anyway. The writing is near flawless. The main character’s painful life and personal failings make me want to weep with empathy. Life can be so, so hard, can’t it?
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
There is something new and fresh about Munaweera's writing that I cannot get enough of. Her command of prose is spellbinding, and its clear, her writing gets better with age.

What Lies Between Us will pull you in and not let you go until the very last page. What I loved most about this novel is the opening. I am a sucker for a great opening. As soon as you start reading this novel you are thrown into this un-named character's world. You know from the start something really bad happened but not h
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

I enjoyed this atmospheric and emotional novel by Nayomi Munaweera. This is a new author for me and I am glad I picked this one up to read.

The novel opens with a prologue in the form of a parable. It is the story of a Himalayan moon bear that is driven to kill her cub in a most gruesome way. It is a short and absolutely shocking tale but what an opening for this novel. At first I questioned the reason for this shocking opening but the author does explain , “it tells us everything we n
Sonja Arlow
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is not always easy to read a book like this, where the emotions and agony of the narrator feels so upfront and personal. In fact, at times it felt as if the wind was knocked out of me.

The narrator (mostly unnamed) was also not always the most likable character but the writing was something to behold.

Ganga’s childhood was an idyllic one, growing up in in an old and beautiful house nestled in the hills of Sri Lanka. Her life is like any other………until it isn’t. The consequences of trauma culmin

I was drawn in from the very first page. We know from the start, the very first words, that this woman is in prison. How & why is what we learn as the story winds down.

The main character is unnamed from the very start of the book, she is young Sri Lankan child, living what sounds like a lovely life. A beautiful home, ponds, flowers, good schools, etc. Sounded like paradise. But under all this beauty, something is just off. Her mom seems hot & cold, stable & then not. The servants seem lov
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
This is a most horrific story told in the most beautiful language. I'm not sure how the author achieves suspense and lyricism, but she does so effectively. At the 3/4 mark, I wanted to both put this book down and devour it all at once. I chose to devour.

Not for the feint of heart, this book contains abuse, murder and some pretty graphic descriptions of sex. But it's all worth the storytelling.

I was reminded of The Enchanted in all the best ways.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book boarders more on the 3.5 star rating, but honestly, I am not quite sure how to review this book. There were parts that had me so enraptured and some that I was like "wait, what? what did I miss?" and then some passages that I just completely skipped right over.

From the very first chapter, I knew the heinous crime for which our storyteller was in jail for. It is fairly self-evident. But what you don't know is the why
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Play Book Tag: What Lies Between Us, by Nayomi Munaweera; 4 Stars 1 8 Jan 29, 2021 10:23AM  

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Nayomi Munaweera’s debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirror was long-listed for the Man Asia Literary Prize and the Dublin IMPAC Prize. It won the Commonwealth Regional Prize for Asia and was short-listed for the Northern California Book Award. Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Munaweera’s… lyrical debut novel [is] worthy of shelving alongside her countryman Michael Ondaatje or her fellow writer of the m ...more

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52 likes · 19 comments
“In Sri Lanka, when two strangers meet, they ask a series of questions that reveal family, ancestral village, and blood ties until they arrive at a common friend or relative. Then they say, "Those are our people, so you are our people." It's a small place. Everyone knows everyone.

"But in America, there are no such namings; it is possible to slip and slide here. It is possible to get lost in the nameless multitudes. There are no ropes binding one, holding one to the earth. Unbound by place or name, one is aware that it is possible to drift out into the atmosphere and beyond that, into the solitary darkness where there is no oxygen.”
“They say that family is the place of safety. But sometimes this is the greatest lie; family is not sanctuary, it is not safety and succour. For some of us, it is the secret wound. Sooner or later we pay for the woundings of our ancestors.” 10 likes
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