Set during the partition of British India in 1947, a time when neighbor was pitted against neighbor and families were torn apart, award-winning author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel brings to life the sweeping story of three sisters caught up in events beyond their control, their unbreakable bond, and their incredible struggle against powerful odds.
In a rural village in Bengal live three sisters, daughters of a well-respected doctor.
Priya: intelligent and idealistic, resolved to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor, though society frowns on it.
Deepa: the beauty, determined to make a marriage that will bring her family joy and status.
Jamini: devout, sharp-eyed, and a talented quiltmaker, with deeper passions than she reveals.
Theirs is a home of love and safety, a refuge from the violent events taking shape in the nation. Then their father is killed during a riot, and even their neighbors turn against them, bringing the events of their country closer to home.
As Priya determinedly pursues her career goal, Deepa falls deeply in love with a Muslim, causing her to break with her family. And Jamini attempts to hold her family together, even as she secretly longs for her sister’s fiancè
When the partition of India is officially decided, a drastic—and dangerous—change is in the air. India is now for Hindus, Pakistan for Muslims. The sisters find themselves separated from one another, each on different paths. They fear for what will happen to not just themselves, but each other.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni outdoes herself with this deeply moving story of sisterhood and friendship, painting an account of India’s independence simultaneously exhilarating and devastating, that will make any reader—new or old—a devoted fan.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the award-winning author of 18 books. Her themes include the Indian experience, contemporary America, women, immigration, history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world. Her work has been published in over 100 magazines and anthologies and translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi and Japanese. She has won numerous awards, including an American
Book Award and the internation Premio Scanno Prize. Divakaruni also writes for children and young adults.
Her latest novel is Oleander Girl (Simon and Schuster, 2013). Her upcoming novel is Before We Visit the Goddess (about 3 generations of women– grandmother, mother and daughter– who each examine the question “what does it mean to be a successful woman.” April 2016, Simon & Schuster.)
Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies. Her novels One Amazing Thing and Palace of Illusions have been optioned. Her collection of stories, Arranged Marriage has been made into a play.
She was born in India and came to the United States to continue her education, receiving a Master’s degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
She currently teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the Univ. of Houston. She serves on the Advisory board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay Area and Daya in Houston, organizations that help South Asian or South Asian American women in abusive situations. She is also closely involved with Pratham, an organization that helps educate children (especially those living in urban slums) in India.
She has judged several prestigious awards, such as the National Book Award and the PEN Faulkner Award.
She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy and has two sons, Anand and Abhay (whose names she has used in her children’s novels).
My thoughts: this feels like a very timely novel as the current political situation in India stirs up old enmity between Hindus and Muslims. Partition, born out of the long struggle for independence from Britain, pitted neighbour against neighbour, families who had lived alongside one another for generations were suddenly at odds. Thousands died. More were displaced. There are still echoes of it now, years later.
But the independence of the book’s title isn’t only that of India and the newly created Pakistan, but also of three sisters. Priya, Deepa and Jamini. Their doctor father and seamstress mother love them but have different ideas about their futures. Bina wants her daughters married and settled, the traditional way of life. But her daughters have ideas of their own.
Priya longs to be a doctor, like her father, and will do whatever it takes to succeed, even leave India. Deepa has fallen in love with a Muslim, and mixed marriages are heavily frowned upon, from both sides. Jamini wants Amit, but Amit loves Priya. These strong willed and determined sisters will do what it takes to achieve their dreams.
Their bond is deep and strong and even in betrayal, they cannot be separated. There is heartbreak and danger, tragedy and love. As India births itself into an independent nation, through violence and division, these three young women will also strive to become.
Powerful and striking, this is a beautifully written and heartbreaking book about the different kinds of independence and also about family, and why sometimes you need more than just yourself.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.
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Thanks for the blog tour support x
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