Srianthi Perera, a Sri Lankan-American journalist residing in Arizona, has just published an entertaining and insightful literary novel.
A Maiden’s Prayer: A Family Story Set in 1970s Sri Lanka examines Sri Lankan beliefs in the power of astrology and the role an individual’s character plays in precipitating his destiny.
The story unfolds between the years 1973-77. It centers upon an extended family trying to marry off a well-to-do male relative, Berty Rajakaruna, a charming and successful engineer. Berty debates whether marriage is a worthwhile price to pay in order to reclaim the Mudaliyar family estate he inherited from the clutches of his scheming sister. He has a lucrative job in the Middle East, and endears himself to the family as he uses his wealth to help those less-fortunate among them.
The novel is humorously narrated by Tamara, a teenage member of the family who herself is navigating a tricky path from childhood to adulthood. Her narrative voice injects warmth and wit into the story she tells about her uncle, who spurns a traditional, arranged marriage and subsequently meets his destiny.
A Maiden’s Prayer is a nostalgic time capsule for those who grew up during this period. Expatriate Sri Lankan men may remember standing in breadlines in the wee hours of the morning, crashing into girls’ schools waving flags during Big Match times, and holding animated conversations with friends over endless glasses of arrack, which were tempered by the moderating influence of omelets and devilled fish “bites.” Women may reminisce about the traditions and rituals in which they participated when they came of age, about facing shortages of food ingredients that challenged them to make eggless cakes and kohila cutlets and about the wonderful spend-the-days with relatives. The story’s other themes include matchmakers, who were fading from the scene at the time, the turbulent political climate and Buddhism and its rituals.
“The story also helps young, second-generation immigrants growing up in a Western culture to understand their parents’ upbringing in the Motherland,” Perera said. “The novel is appealing and suitable for teenagers—ages 16 and above—and young adults of Sri Lankan origin.”
Perera, who attended Bishop’s College, Colombo, received a Bachelor of Arts as an external student from Peradeniya University with English Literature as a main subject. She has enjoyed a lifelong career in journalism in Sri Lanka, the Sultanate of Oman, Canada and the USA. Her first job in journalism was as a stringer at the Sunday Observer.
She lives in Chandler, Arizona, with her husband. This is her debut novel.