Three generations of Indian women struggle with the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters.
In a novel spanning India and the United States over 60 years, richly drawn characters negotiate the desire for education against family obligations and romantic entanglements. Sabitri has never met her American-born granddaughter, Tara, but after receiving word the girl is considering dropping out of college, she begins to write a letter detailing her own life. Originally focused on education, Sabitri was dismissed from her sponsors' home after falling in love with their son. She would go on to marry one of her professors, have a daughter, Bela, and build a business baking sweets after the death of her husband. Bela also left school to elope to the United States with her boyfriend, after which she never returned to India or saw her mother again. In the U.S., Bela deals with her alienation from her family and culture, a disconnect which is passed on to Tara. Divakaruni’s novel explores the moments that reverberate across generations as well as the quiet erosions of culture that happen over time. Although the author skillfully handles the various decades and narratives at first, toward the novel’s end, the perspectives shift to those of minor—and much less developed—characters, such as Bela’s neighbor and her ex-husband. This movement away from the lyrical voices of Sabitri, Bela, and Tara is both disorienting and disappointing, as compelling plot threads are left abandoned and unexplored.
A novel of quiet but deeply affecting moments.