Thursday, June 2, 2016

Before We Visit the Goddess

Before We Visit the Goddess, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

As a long-time fan of Divakaruni, I have been excited about this new book for a while.  And it lived up to everything I could hope for; it's a lovely novel.  But it's not really quite a novel, actually--Divakaruni wanted to offer different perspectives, and it's written as nine short stories spanning nearly sixty years, each from a different person's point of view.  It's a technical feat that acts as a prism, showing us shades and nuances we could never see otherwise--and also shows the author's impressive power.  She's better than she's ever been, so I hope there will be many more books.

The focus is three generations of women: Sabitri, a Bengali sweet-maker, her daughter Bela, who elopes to the United States, and Bela's daughter Tara, who is having a difficult time figuring out her life--as they all do.  Each of them make choices that bring far-reaching consequences, and often they're reacting to pain unwittingly inflicted, or assuming far too much without understanding.  The distances that open up between each of them leave them alone and vulnerable, but they also pick up the pieces and keep going, gaining friendship or support along the way.

It's a beautiful novel, with a lot of tragedy and pain but also healing and hope for more.
...I, too, am entangled in this web of sorrow and responsibility.  Pain makes us crazy.  All we want is to throw the live coal of it as far from us as we can, not thinking what we might set afire.


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