The main character, Anil, returns to Sri Lanka after years of living and studying abroad in order to help find answers about murders caused by the civil war. The actions taken by both the rebels and the government have caused unrest and heightened tensions. Michael Ondaatje writes,
There had been years of night visitations, kidnappings or murders in broad daylight. The only chance was that the creatures who fought would consume themselves. All that was left of law was a belief in an eventual revenge towards those who had power.
One night, Anil speaks to Gamini, who points out that she has to become involved in Sri Lanka emotionally; she can't treat it as temporary and leave as soon as she has the answers she seeks. Too many people do that, he points out, and it hurts the country:
"American movies, English books—remember how they all end?" Gamini asked that night. "The American or the Englishman gets on a plane and leaves. That's it. The camera leaves with him. He looks out of the window...
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