Poet and novelist Divakaruni (The Conch Bearer, 2003, etc.) stirs up a tasty curry that’s half-mystery, half-fantasy in a clever tale of a young woman trying to sort out the mystery of her mother’s death—and life.
Having a clairvoyant mother can be a pain, but not always. Berkeley artist Rakhi Gupta is going through all the usual thirtysomething traumas of family and career—her first gallery exhibition is due to open soon, her coffeehouse is being undersold by a Starbucks-like competitor, her loathsome ex-husband is constantly dropping in to see their daughter—and she’s getting desperate enough to do the worst thing a grown girl can do: turn to her mother for help. Mrs. Gupta is an India-born “dream reader” who has developed a select following in California for her ability to interpret her clients’ nocturnal fantasies (“A dream of milk means you are about to fall ill”). Rakhi wants to sound her out on a few worries of her own, but before she has the chance her mother is killed in a car accident. Rakhi’s father, who survives the crash, tells her that just before the accident her mother seemed to be pursuing someone in a mysterious black car. Creepy enough—and now Rakhi’s six-year-old daughter Jona is becoming more and more insistent that her imaginary friend Elaina isn’t imaginary at all. A childhood fantasy—or a more complicated grown-up one? Somehow, Rakhi feels that the answers lie in her mother’s dream notebooks, which her father has agreed to translate for her. As a record of the hidden world of her clients and herself, Mrs. Gupta’s notebooks unlocked the door to many mysteries during her lifetime. Perhaps they’ll do so once more now that she is dead.
Richly textured and artfully told through the varied perspectives of believable characters.