Three Women, And A Glimpse Of Divinity

About mothers and daughters and their fragile and often fraught bond.
Before We Visit The Goddess
By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Simon & Shuster | Pages: 224 | Rs. 399

Three women—grandmother, mother, daughter—populate Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s new book, a novel told in the form of short stories. So we meet Sabitri, the ailing grandmother, in 1995, as she puts pen to paper in her ancestral village, some distance from Calcutta. She is writing to her granddaughter, Tara, who she has never met, about a life-changing decision she is about to make. As she writes, we trace Sabitri’s dramatic rise and fall, from poverty to one of Calcu­tta’s best sweet-makers, her complicated marriage, the birth of her daughter, Bela, and life spiralling out of control.

Advertisement opens in new window

Divakaruni shifts gears, and retreats more than three decades to her next story, exploring the story of a young Bela in 1963. The stubborn, reserved, whimsical daughter of a gritty and stoic Sabitri. Bela grows up, flees with her political refugee boyfri­end to American shores. Then comes along Tara, her daughter, who grows up with dil­emmas of her own—dropping out from college, and not knowing where she belongs. And so we swing from 1963 to 2020, each story picking a different period in the lives of these women, between east India and America. Each thread breaks down the tra­­ditional novel to suit the form of short stories. There is room to breathe even while being able to enjoy the narrative as a whole.

This is more than a story of immigrant angst and displaced identity. There’s magic, drama, breaking and healing through culinary pleasures.

Before We Visit the Goddess is more than a story of immigrant angst and displaced identity. There’s magic, drama, breaking and healing through culinary pleasures. This novel is about mothers and daughters and their fragile and often fraught bond. What Divakaruni’s three women don’t find in conventional parental figures, Sabitri, Bela, Tara, seek in others they meet, and some unusual, heartening relationships are formed. In many ways, this brightens the novel that is, largely, an exercise in mourning—for mistakes that shouldn’t have been made, for relationships that des­troyed other relationships. The motif of food and its powers is soothing.

The strongest characterisation is that of its oldest heroine, Sabitri. The two younger women are less fleshed out, and far less worthy of empathy. Divakaruni’s dysfuncti­onal women make you wonder about human motivations. Why self-des­truct? If only there was a simple answer.

Next Story : Spoken Like Savant Superior
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
REVIEW
Review
Arresting imagery and details bolster Salim’s realistic, sensual portrayal of the opposite pulls of small and big town life, as the Grim Reaper waits patiently
MAGAZINE June 15, 2017
Review
The horrific excess of the Inquisition in Goa is fertile ground for a writer. But this Konkani novel is an error-prone travesty at best.
MAGAZINE June 15, 2017
Review
Nadeem Aslam’s novelistic Lahore bristles with rage, hatred and a demonic energy, taking a magnifying glass to Pakistan’s faultlines
MAGAZINE June 15, 2017
Review
Edouard Louis’s brutalising in his rough, provincial France has a direct connect to its right-wing rage. This is not charmingly evocative, but clinical.
MAGAZINE June 08, 2017
Review
Paleo-biologist Hope Jahren is at hand to show the wonder that is a tree. Among the thick foliage hangs the story of her struggle as a scientist.
MAGAZINE June 08, 2017
read more>>>
Advertisement

OUTLOOK TOPICS :

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

or just type initial letters