Before We Visit the Goddess

      10 Comments on Before We Visit the Goddess

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.

Chitra’s imagery is flawless. Be it Leelamoyi’s opulent Kolkata mansion, Sabitri’s Durga Sweets with its aromas, Bela’s childhood in Assam or the Meenakshi temple in Texas, she effortlessly plants these images in our mind’s eye. Every character has a naive and a shrewd, calculating side (if I may call it that), which rounds them off, making them seem very real and believable. Bela is probably the finest example of that. So much so that she annoyed me. I admired Sabitri’s strength and Tara’s rebellious streak, but I didn’t warm up to Bela. But then, that’s what a good writer does to you! Makes you feel something towards their characters.
Her writing flows like a river skipping over rocks, we skip to and from different times in Sabitri’s, Bela’s and Tara’s lives, calm and turbulent at different times. Chitra has succinctly left a lot to the reader’s imagination, without explaining every painful detail of her characters decisions.
Also, I love the passion with which she writes about food! As with all her other books, food plays a major role in this book too. Her vivid descriptions of Bengali desserts, particularly the one scene where Sabitri is victorious in creating the perfect dessert with mango and saffron gave me a serious hankering for sweets!
What a beautiful story of the fragile yet resilient relationship between mothers and daughters. This is a must read!

10 thoughts on “Before We Visit the Goddess

  1. natarajuv

    Your blogpost is so nice that it drives readers not to waste time in trying to know more of the story characters Sabitri,Bela and Tara .

    Please Keep it up .

    1. mixedbag Post author

      They’re both really well written books. I love how CBD trusts her readers to understand what she doesn’t tell 🙂 Thanks, Sanch.


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