Title : Before We Visit the Goddess
Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Genre : Adult, Literary Fiction, Cultural Fiction
Goodreads summary :
The daughter of a poor baker in rural Bengal, India, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but her family’s situation means college is an impossible dream. Then an influential woman from Kolkata takes Sabitri under her wing, but her generosity soon proves dangerous after the girl makes a single, unforgivable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees abroad with her political refugee lover—but the America she finds is vastly different from the country she’d imagined. As the marriage crumbles and Bela is forced to forge her own path, she unwittingly imprints her own child, Tara, with indelible lessons about freedom, heartbreak, and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.
I like family drama. Heck, I love family drama. Family stories, following the lives of different generations of families, their little nuances, the tiny details and stories – these are probably my favorite type of books to read. And I especially, especially love when such family stories are set in India. When such stories are embedded into the India of the 90’s or maybe of an earlier time, and reading about the cultures and customs, habits and norms followed by the people during that time fascinates me.
So it’s no wonder that Divakaruni’s Before We Visit the Goddess enchanted me. It may not be the most beautiful or the most intelligent story in the world, but she masterfully manages to spin a story about three women, three generations and their personal struggles and hardships, joys and happiness. Even though it is a mere 200 page novel, it still raptures and manages to weave a simple story in such a compelling way.
The story is about Sabitri, Bela and Tara – grandmother, mother and daughter. The story starts with Sabitri and her poor life, how she manages to beat the odds and build a successful life for herself; Bela, whose life is spoiled by one blazing need for revenge and Tara, whose suffers because of the mistakes made by her elders.
I think out of all the stories, Sabitri’s story was the most inspirational and heart-breaking, though I enjoyed Bela and Tara’s story too. The three stories intervene and mix with each other, parts of each revealed throughout the book. The stories may not be suspenseful or shocking, but they are still good stories. They are believable and realistic.
Banerjee’s writing is beautiful, it is so simple and poignant, and touches you within. I’m so glad I discovered her books this year. She somehow writes simple things in such a compelling form, and it’s difficult not to be awed. Her characters are so real. They make mistakes, they regret things they do, they’re basically every single human being on earth.
Overall, I loved the book. It took me a while to read it, but I still love it a lot and I’m glad I decided to buy it. I cannot wait to read more books by her; Banerjee is officially one of my favorite authors now :)
Check out my review of The Palace of Illusions by the same author!