The Sunday Leader

Butterfly Kisses : Birth, Death And More

Sharmila Jayasinghe Niriella

This maiden novel for Sri Lankan-Australian author Sharmila Jayasinghe Niriella, Butterfly Kisses tells the story of two women who find their lives inextricably linked by the complexities of events surrounding the ‘births’ of a child in Australia and Sri Lanka . The reader is left to unravel the plot that contain nuances of destiny,  coincidence and strong evidence to suggest a corollary with reincarnation.

The story is woven around the life and tragic death of little Shania an autistic child, who is subsequently reborn into an entirely different scenario.  The novel has soft undertones on the concept of reincarnation. The lives of the protagonists in two different social structures one sophisticated, modern and liberal Australia and traditional and conservative Sri Lanka are juxtaposed by the author with realism and flair.

The novel journeys across Australia, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Malaysia and deals with the birth, death, and rebirth. The life journey of the two main characters and the story has connotations of both Christianity and Buddhism. The Buddhist belief of reincarnation implied in the story reflects the influence and the learning the author has had by her  Buddhist father. The Christian aspect of the novel stems from the authors own religious belief which also paves way to the western scenario in the story. Authors own upbringing in a harmoniously blending Buddhist and Christian background helped her to come up with an interesting  insight that brings the characters to life.  The interplay of Christian and Buddhist background in the novel gives her a rich tapestry on which to weave her work.  Butterfly Kisses in essence portrays the soft but ever present influences that act to control our destiny. The novel speaks of subtle and soft tugs of inescapable forces beyond our control that shape our world.

Her art of story telling is unique in that she takes the reader from one scene to the other with precision and no waste of time. There is no drabness in the action. The plot of the novel unravels slowly but steadily and at the same time keeps the reader in suspense. The book also contains a mosaic of true accounts; real life experiences of the author. The vivid descriptions of experiences that she has had in her life adds a strong element of realism to sequences of the storyline. For example, childbirth in a private hospital in Sydney, fresh in her own mind when she started writing the book, is described as it actually happens.

In the story, Niriella describes the protagonists visit to a Japanese garden, ‘Cherry blossoms covered the temple grounds like a soft white carpet. Shania skipped lightly in front of us . She looked beautiful in her new yellow sundress with yellow ribbons on her hair. She twirled around.  looking at the arching branches full of cherry blossoms.

Light music played on the loud speaker giving magnificent ambience. The temple grounds were full of people gathered for the cherry blossom viewing festivities. We joined in, enjoying the beauty surrounding us. Branches heavy with cherry blossoms arched above us, forming a perfect white canopy.

Undoubtedly, Niriella has ably integrated her personal experiences with that of her extensive travels in her novel.

For Niriella the spark of inspiration for her premier novel came after the birth of her only son. The vision of a candle being lit which is a result of the flame being passed on, raised many thought provoking questions of a metaphysical kind within her and it wasn’t until the night after her son was born that she put her pen to work and contemplated writing a novel that gave rise to Butterfly Kisses. The project  almost took three years to complete.  In fact, Niriella’s son’s can be found gracing the cover of the novel that epitomizes the motivation her son was to her.

Butterfly Kisses is a book that inspires, written by an author who has much experience in the print and electronic media both in Sri Lanka and Australia. She is currently a free lance journalist in several international newspapers in Australia. She has spent much energy to create her first novel that is easy to understand and resonates with passion and purpose.

Mahes Salgado

2 Comments for “Butterfly Kisses : Birth, Death And More”

  1. Interesting. I think I might go and check it. It looks very different from what I’ve read before.

  2. I’ve read it–and I was very impressed. It’s emotionally real and very human. I read it in two sittings and hardly noticed the time. The reincarnation story is right along the lines of what you read in Dr. Stevenson’s research, except that this book brings it to life. I also really like the way she deftly handles jumping from one time and place to another, building the story from this side and then from that side.
    Steve S.

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