That’s right! I got a signed copy of this book. Signed by one of my all time favorite authors who I was privileged to meet. She was here in the Bay Area on her book tour. How could I miss it? If you haven’t already, do read my post on the Q&A session with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni here.
The book starts with Sabitri in the evening of her life, penning a letter to her granddaughter, Tara who has decided to drop out of college. Tara and Sabitri barely know each other, due to emotional distances between Sabitri and her daughter Bela, in addition to gaping physical ones. Through her letter, she tells Tara her story – how she, a poor confectioner’s daughter yearning for an education gets a life-changing opportunity when a wealthy woman in Kolkata takes her under her wing. But young, naive Sabitri makes a grave mistake, for which she has to pay dearly. The letter then intertwines her life with her daughter, Bela’s.
Bela’s life, her problems are very different than her mother’s. What a difference a generation makes! But they are problems, nevertheless. Bela elopes to America to marry her boyfriend, to an America which is very different from what she had imagined. Tara her daughter, marred by her parents’ divorce turns into a rebellious, agnostic young woman, who wants nothing to do with her parents. But our roots are called roots for a reason. We stray away from our culture at times, but we can never go farther than our roots allow.
With this book I’m convinced that Chitra really is a master storyteller. Although from completely different genres, ‘Before We Visit the Goddess’ will enthrall you as much as ‘The Palace of Illusions‘ did. Her protagonists always have such a strong voice, you’re forced to sit up and take note, be it Draupadi in The Palace of Illusions or Sabitri, Bela and Tara in this book. I also really related to this book because in some ways, it is similar to my own life. My mother, my daughter and I have the same India-USA connections as Sabitri, Bela and Tara do.