The Buddha taught that to live is to experience suffering. Few family sagas, especially first ones, have captured this aspect of suffering and so many other truths in as lyric a fashion as "When Memory Dies". Through the viewpoints of three generations of a Sri Lankan family (taking the reader from 1920 through the 1980s), Sivanandan explores a culture destroyed first by colonization, then through the ethnic divisions that are released when the country achieves independence. The family, which lives at a level of poverty that makes survival a constant struggle, must also balance love for one another with a deep love of their homeland. Without bending to romanticism or proselytization, the author evokes a compelling and very human story of a lost country. It is a vision as beautifully told as it is unrelenting in its devotion to truth. In the process, the work also supplies a rich historic background to the often underreported news accounts of the massacres and upheavals in Sri Lanka.