I started reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s books in about 2001. I clearly remember being fascinated then by the writing and surprisingly still am. Every time there is a book by her, I devour it. I am somehow taken in by the writing that is so lucid and the interpersonal relationships that stand out so strong in all her books. Whether she is speaking of Draupadi in “The Palace of Illusions” or trying to deal with cousins and their lives in “Sister of my Heart”, she sure knows her craft and is the top notch mistress of it.
“Before we visit the Goddess” is her latest book and to be honest, I think it is way better than the others (that’s saying something) and very taut in its writing. It is a story of three generations of mothers and daughters – spanning right from West Bengal and leading to Texas – a sort of back and forth – not only between terrains but also emotions and lifestyles.
The book is about a family that is torn apart by love, ambition, pride and the need to belong. It starts with Sabitri, daughter of a poor banker in rural Bengal and the decisions she makes that will rock not only her world but also those of her daughter Bela’s (even though she manages to escape to America, falsely thinking that the past is well behind her) and her granddaughter Tara’s who will learn and unlearn love the hard way.
I think more than anything else it is the uniqueness (or not for some) of the plot that had me going. The voices are strong, fearful, uncertain and only human at the end of it all – as the story progresses and reaches an end which is quite unpredictable.
The writing as usual is succinct and not too long. At no point did I feel that I did not know the characters or wanted the book to be longer. It is just right. The pace of the book is languid – the way it should be – the descriptions rich and in full detail, making you wait as a reader about what’s going to happen next.
“Before we visit the Goddess” is an honest book revealing the emotions, the decisions and lives across time and generations of women – each trying to find their own existence and home. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am sure so will you. A must read.