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

Estimated Reading Time:
Rating: 4/5
I’m a big fan of Divakaruni’s books. My sister and I have been reading her books since we  first came across her book of short stories ‘Arranged Marriage.’ Being girls of Indian descent brought up in the United States, we felt an instantaneous connection with her writing, like she was speaking for us in a sense. It was nice to know that we weren't alone in what we were experiencing. We felt a part of an instant community through her novels. Someone finally understood us.

I have moved out of America since, but when I saw her latest offering at the bookstore, I snatched it up, a good author is always a good author and Ms. Divakaruni is one of my favorite international Indian authors. I sat down with the book and finished it in two days flat.

I won’t say I fell in love with the novel and never wanted it to end. I loved the novel, but the story was evoking emotions in me that are usually reserved for cheaters, rapists  and widows, erupting out of me when I shout at the news on TV. I wanted it to finish every other page, but kept hoping it wouldn’t until all the bows were neatly in place and tied. I hate finishing a novel and not getting that sense of closure. Rest assured, we are given closure here.
The characters, as usual to any Divakaruni novel, spring to life vibrantly and with depth. The ones she wanted to leave in the 2 dimension were left exactly there, and the ones that mattered were beautifully depicted in all their glory, the good, the bad and the evil.
A tale spanning 3 generations of women in the same family (following the trend of multi-generational time-hopping novels that we are seeing these days), each story is woven and interwoven wonderfully, coming to natural pauses and beginning with each chapter. The story flows between daughter, mother and grandmother, the mother and  daughters’ stories being the heart of the novel. The story took me by surprise a little. I guess I wasn't expecting the daughter, an american of indian origin, to be so, forgive me for this,  un-indian. The one thing I associate with being Indian is the extreme sense of familial duty and responsibility. I can't fathom a world where an Indian - male or female-  could go a decade without talking to their parents in this day and age, but as you will see in the novel, that world has arrived. I guess i'm the one that is old world now.
I’m always a little afraid to read Divakarunis’ novels. For lack of better words, they tend to the  deep and dark, morose with more than a tinge of sadness; someone is either dying, miscarrying, getting cheated on, losing their houses or husbands, etc,etc. I tend to empathize pretty quickly so I always walk away from one of her novels with a knot in my stomach. My sister still has nightmares about a short story in the 'Arranged Marriage' book. Ms. Divakaruni hits deep ya’ll.
I think it is because we could easily see ourselves in that situation, we relate at a cellular level,  that we, well especially me, take it to heart when a characters life unravels from a single word or incident as it happens in her latest novel.
One question asked and we see the protagonists life take a turn for worst, spiraling downward with a halt in shit storm city. It's scary how quickly everything changes!
Even with all the darkness, I liked the book. I enjoyed reading it. Well written, as usual, the story flows, meandering through the plot leisurely, skipping decades and emphasizing days in turns. I became invested in the characters and novel, wanting to know what happened and hoping everything turns out well. I came away a little sad, shaken up, and a little worse for wear.  

If you are looking for a happy rose filtered story to read about the American dream, put the book down right now and move along. If you want a stripped down harsh version of reality, a book that will move and engage you, here is your book. Just have a tissue ready for your sniffles and gird your loins. 

~Rumi 

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