Book reviews: A wedding crashes in ‘You’re Invited’; Everglades City stars in ‘Girls Without Tears’


‘You’re Invited’ by Amanda Jayatissa. Berkley, 384 pages, $27

Amanda Jayatissa amps up the talent for storytelling she showed in her 2021 debut in a skillful second novel about her native Sri Lanka’s culture and traditions, as well as loyalty, friendship and family ties wrapped into a thriller accented by several solid twists.


Jayatissa’s debut “My Sweet Girl” depicted Sri Lanka’s poorer communities by looking at orphanages and the issues of foreign adoptions. Jayatissa takes a different route with “You’re Invited,” which is set among Sri Lanka’s wealthiest and most privileged residents against the background of an elaborate wedding that lasts for several days.

While a wedding should be a time of joy, Jayatissa also delves into the intrigue, betrayal, jealousy, pretentiousness, sibling rivalry and secrets — oh so many secrets — that can derail the festivities. In “You’re Invited,” just about everyone acts like a bridezilla, from the so-called happy couple, the family, guests and the vendors.


Amaya Bloom has built a good life, far away from her home in Sri Lanka. She runs a small, but successful spice boutique in Los Angeles and is in control of her life. OK, she does obsessively follow her former best friend Kaavindi “Kaavi” Fonseka on social media, even setting up several fake online identities. Kaavi, who’s back in Sri Lanka, has become a glamorous influencer who posts each action and each makeup tip on social media, and has established a successful charity for girls. The women became friends as children but that relationship ended shortly after college. Amaya also was close to Kaavi’s uber wealthy family who are in the gem business.

On Instagram, Amaya learns that not only is Kaavi getting married but that she’s marrying Amaya’s former boyfriend, Matthew Spencer. Your ex-best friend marrying your ex-boyfriend — what could go wrong! More than anything, Amaya wants to stop the wedding and sees her chance when she receives a surprise invitation. Should she go? No question.

“You’re Invited” opens on the day of the wedding when Kaavi is missing, her hotel room trashed and that ultra-expensive bridal gown ruined. The action moves from the immediate past of just a few days before to several years prior, then back to the present, illuminating Amaya’s relationship with Kaavi and her family. Amaya’s resentment of Kaavi and Matthew seems borderline psychotic.

Jayatissa ratchets up the action of “You’re Invited” with gossip, tradition and family dynamics. The fascinating look at the country’s culture adds extra context to the characters’ motives. Jayatissa delivers an armchair trip to Sri Lanka, capturing the country’s heat, smells, food and life in detail.

“My Sweet Girl” ushered in a new talent; “You’re Invited” firmly establishes Jayatissa as a rising star.

‘Girls Without Tears’ by T.L. Finlay. Crooked Lane, 336 pages, $27.99


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For most people, Everglades City is a stop on the way from Florida’s east coast to its west coast, a mere “dot on the map” — a small, quiet town with a couple of good, down-home restaurants located on the edge of the Everglades. T.L. Finlay makes Everglades City a formidable backdrop for “Girls Without Tears,” her third mystery —and her first set in Florida — as she captures the beauty, nuances and danger of living close to nature.

Noa Romwell knows quite well the intricacies of Everglades City, but for most of her life she had to avoid much of what her hometown offered as she was diagnosed with congenital insensitivity to pain when she was a child. Few people understood how this rare malady affected her, and treated her as an invalid or believed she might be faking. She wasn’t allowed to participate in sports and eventually her high school boyfriend, Zack Flynn, broke up with her, giving into fears that she might never be able to have children. After college, Noa moved to Miami Beach, got a job as a public relations professional at a high-profile South Florida firm and built a good life for herself. She has seldom returned to Everglades City, preferring to meet her parents on trips away from her hometown.


But now Noa’s parents, who run the Bramble Rose B&B, want her to return to Everglades City to help search for 6-year-old Skye, the daughter of Zack and his wife, Taylor, the woman for whom he broke up with Noa. The child vanished on her way home from school and all the Everglades City residents are organized into search parties. The visit brings back a lot of bad memories for Noa, of both her bad breakup with Zack and how the townspeople treated her and still view her. She finds you really can’t go home again.

Finlay makes good use of Noa’s pain insensitivity. She doesn’t know if she may have a broken her ankle or a medical emergency, and others don’t understand that never having pain can be lethal. Finlay weaves this chronic condition smoothly into “Girls Without Tears,” making it a part of who Noa is but not allowing it to overwhelm the story.

Finlay’s vision of Florida, especially the Everglades, will resonate with residents and visitors alike. “If heat had a color, it would be that of the Everglades,” muses Noa. Regarding the “aura” of the Everglades, “every single atom is in a defensive stance. Everything is sharp — from the spiky tips of the palm branches to the dried-out blades of grass. The wind blows, igniting a chorus of off-key whistling across the miles and miles of sawgrass.”

The untamed wilderness of Florida is the perfect foil for Noa, whose appreciation of nature must be tempered with her disorder. “Girls Without Tears” showcases Florida in all its glory.

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at


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