On the jacket:
A beautiful, powerful new novel from the bestselling, 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.
In her latest novel, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, and the different kinds of love that bind us across generations. Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston, Texas—an extraordinary journey told through a sparkling symphony of voices.
Before I write a review for the book in question, let me confess my love for the author. I’d read Oleander Girl a couple of years ago and I am not exaggerating when I say that a part of my stayed inside the pages of the story ever since. Maybe this has a lot to do with the fact that I am a Bengali, a probashi at that, and how even the smallest descriptions in the story brought back memories of the six-monthly school vacations spent in the city of Calcutta. Or maybe it is purely because the genius behind the author. Long story short, after having read four of her books now, I can say – I have a favourite Indian author.
This review is no one influenced by how much I love what Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni writes, or hey, maybe it is! Let’s start at the very beginning. I have always marvelled at how some authors describe people so well. Like, so well! This is Sabitri’s story – a story she tells her grand-daughter in a letter she is being forced to write, in a way. The purpose of the letter is to explain the importance of education in a woman’s life.
Effortless writing (or so the genius of the author makes us believe) and flawless character formation of very flawed characters, the author has brought together the plot perfectly. What I loved the most, let me be honest, is that the story is about three generations of women of the same family. This made me connect at a personal level for of late I’ve been wondering why I never asked my grandmother more about her lifetime.
The thing about the main relationships dealt with in this story is that, they are close yet distraught. And I guess that is the case in almost every family. While Sabitri’s story was inspiration, her daughter Bela, just seemed selfish to me – but that is how people are, flawed. All these women have earned the lives they are living and are dealing with them in their own ways. The genius of the storyteller shows in how the same incident is showcased from the pov of different characters. The novel spans across six decades and takes the reader along on a glorious ride. A must read!