Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Book Review: Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

Book: Before We Visit The Goddess

Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Pages: 208

Read On: Hardback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: A beautiful, powerful new novel from the best-selling, award-winning author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices about three generations of mothers and daughters who must discover their greatest source of strength in one another—a masterful, brilliant tale of a family both united and torn apart by ambition and love.

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.

General Thoughts: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (CBD) is one of my most loved authors. I buy every single new  book she comes out with. She is definetly my auto-buy author. I wanted this book when it first came out but I was on holiday and had to wait a few months to sink my teeth into it. :)
I went into this book with my expectations in check. I knew I'd enjoy it. I always enjoy her (CBD's) books, but I didn't exactly love her last book--- The Oleander Girl--- you can find my review of it HERE.

So I went in my expectations in check and reading this book on it's own merits.

Things I Liked: 

1. As always and as expected I loved the writing and CBD's style of story telling. If you've read her, you know what I mean. I love entering the world she creates and spend time with the people she breathes life into.

2. This is basically a story about three women, three generations of women of a family and I adore stories of this nature. A story that takes me through decades and see how different the lives of these women were. Also Bengali women centric stories are favourites of mine---for obvious reasons, I a Bengali woman myself! :)

3. I found all three women compelling and didn't prefer one  over the other. I liked spending time with each of them and seeing their world and how different the world, times and struggles were in each time period.

4. The book takes you so many places from rural Bengal, Assam, to Calcutta in the 1960s, the US in the 70s and 80s and the present. And I love how the place and set-up also add to the story and shapes these women.

5. This book is mainly a book about mothers and daughters and how abysmally we often treat the people we love best. Aren't we all a little guilty of treating our mothers a little badly? Not taking them or their advice seriously and  thinking we always know better than them. I know I do this a lot and this book made me think of my relationship with my mother and even her relationship with hers. CBD does a fantastic job of getting the intricacies and complexities of mother daughter relationships.

6. The book also has so many other great characters apart from our main ladies, Characters that show up briefly but really leave a lasting impression. Mrs. Mehta a seemingly cantankerous old lady who is there for only a chapter is very memorable and  heart warming character. And I utterly loved Sabitri's manager who has silently loved her for ages. And Bela's gay neighbour who pushes her out of her alcoholism and on to bigger and successful things.

7. This is a super quick read. When the book first arrived in the mail, I was surprised to see how slim it was. At only 208 pages, it might be the smallest book CBD has ever written. Yet it manages to pack so much within it's pages.

8. In spite of being relatively small there are so many people and so many stories in it. And these stories are kept concise and succinct but still as a reader you feel like you get the whole story about each of characters. It isn't hurried or haphazard at all.

9. Tara's confusion, angst and her wholely American identity was shown very well. She isn't Indian at all and I think is an apt example of NRI kids really are, especially those who've never come to India. Some books show them overly Indianised and this sometimes rings so false and unbelievable.

10. I loved Sabitri. Loved her grit, determination and also how incredibly human she was. She is my favourite character in the book and I just wished there was more of her. In fact I would enjoy a 300 page novel just about her life in great detail!

Things I Didn't Like:

I really loved this book and I highly, highly recommend it. But there some very minor things I didn't like about it.

1. Honestly, this book would have made a for lovelier long read...something around the 400 page mark. Because there were so many people and their complicated lives, there was so much more fodder for this story. 208 pages felt a little too less.

2. I didn't like Tara at all. There is nothing redeeming about her. She to me is just a hollow little person. I just didn't care about her at all! Also, I didn't quite understand her rage against every damn thing especially her mother. I didn't empathise with her and her unnecessary angst.

3, I felt the Assam section of the book and it's aftermath were a tad bit rushed. I felt like this portion and big things that happened here ought to have been fleshed out a little bit better.

4. This book does a lot of tell and not show...which isn't necessarily a bad thing but sometimes it took a sentence or two to convey some very big things that happened and didn't delve into it further, which to me felt a little disappointing.

Rating: 4/5 

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