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The Vine of Desire: A Novel Hardcover – January 15, 2002

61 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Vine of Desire is peopled by Indian immigrants and--just as palpably--by their hopes and dreams. As one character says, "All immigrants are dreamers, but they're practical about it. They know what's OK to dream about, and what isn't." Though it's a sequel to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Sister of My Heart, the novel stands alone as an exploration of the contemporary immigrant experience. Anju and Sudha, cousins and best friends since their Calcutta girlhood, find themselves in the Bay Area, Anju with a husband and Sudha with a baby daughter. Each covets what the other has until finally their relationship collapses. Anju finds solace among her fellow Berkeley students, while the beautiful Sudha learns, for the first time, what it's like to pay her own way. Digressive and overwritten, The Vine of Desire can try your patience, but it's so well plotted and compassionately told that you can't help but care about these immigrant dreams. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

This exquisitely rendered tale of passion, jealousy and redemption continues the extraordinary relationship between Anjou and Sudha, the two exceptional women at the heart of Divakaruni's praised Sister of My Heart. The two cousins have traveled a lifetime away from their home city of Calcutta to California, a place so foreign to their native culture and traditions that they must constantly reevaluate their bearings and values. Anjou, miserable after a miscarriage and its unhappy effect on her marriage, and Sudha, fleeing both a husband whose family urged her to abort her daughter, and a first love who wants to take care of her and her child, hope to find solace in their sisterlike relationship. Divakaruni expertly juxtaposes the challenges, freedoms and crassness of modern-day America with the issues, both personal and cultural, each woman faces. Anjou uses Sudha to help her cope with a growing restlessness as well as with dissatisfaction with her husband, Sunil. Sudha is both comforted and suffocated by her life as an escapee from her past, becoming a servant in her cousin's household. At the same time, each woman must eventually acknowledge Anjou's husband's unspoken but obvious attraction to Sudha. Divakaruni combines a gift for absorbing narrative with the artistry of a painter. Her lyrical descriptions of the characters' inner and outer worlds bring a rich emotional chiaroscuro to an uplifting story about two women who learn to make peace with the difficult choices circumstances have forced upon them. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. National author tour. (Feb. 1)Forecast: Already a reading group favorite, and consistently hailed by critics, Divakaruni can expect excitement for this book to build quickly.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (January 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385497296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385497299
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,630,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's acclaimed novels for adults include the bestselling The Mistress of Spices, soon to be a motion picture. Her previous book for young readers, The Conch Bearer, was a Booklist Editors' Choice, Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and is a 2005 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston and lives with her husband and two sons in Sugarland, Texas.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've read all of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's fiction, and have frequently recommended this tremendously gifted writer to my friends. I eagerly awaited this book, only to be disappointed. Sister of My Heart, of course, doesn't need a sequel, and the author herself has said that she considered the story finished. Only many years later after other projects did she find she still had more to say about Anju and Sudha.
And what she has to say is very different from the earlier book. Where Sister affirmed the loving if tangled connections between its characters, Vine finds them tearing each other apart. Unfortunately, there's not enough movement in the story's first half, just an ever-elaborated atmosphere of tension. Worse, the author's trademark sumptuous language is overdone, and it throws off the balance of wordcraft with story. She delivers gem-like descriptions of trash rolling down the street but leaves the characters curiously opaque, their motivations described in artificial and thoroughly unconvincing ways. I never understood why the women acted the way they did, and felt, sadly, that I was missing the drama of present desire contending with past affection, since the loving friendship here threatened was nowhere in evidence. Given these problems with the plot and the characters, I found the language distracting and ineffective, despite some lovely images.
I did however find the book grew stronger and more powerful in the second half, after the uncomfortable menage a trois is broken up and the characters pursue their lives separately. Towards the end Divakaruni delivers some truly moving insights into the emotional realities we all share, reminding me that she's a writer worth listening to, even in her weaker efforts.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Diane on January 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. I also thoroughly enjoyed the first part to this story. It continues the story of Anju and Sudha who are now reunited in America. Anju has suffered a miscarriage and her relationship with her husband, Sunil, is fragile at best. When Sudha arrives in the U.S. and lives with Anju and Sunil, old wounds are reopened and new passions flare.
How all three characters grow and learn makes this story worthwhile.
The writing is beautiful, almost lyrical.
A must read.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book was certainly as compelling as the first -- Sister of My Heart. This author has a talent for artistry with her writing, weaving a tapestry with words.
Beginning where Sister of My Heart left off, with Sudha starting her new life in America despite pleas from an old love for marriage, this book opens with intensity. Anju's husband Sunil has strong feelings for Sudha, and they are reignited when Sudha moves in with child. Anju and Sunil's marriage has been rocky since the loss of their baby, and Sudha's moving in does not help. The reader has to wonder why Anju or Sudha thought it would, or if in fact they knew it might not, but needed certain truths to be revealed.
Sudha tries to build a life for herself and her baby in America, attempting to date, and to find work. However, Sunil has other plans for her. This said, the triangle between these three comes to a pivitol stage, and Sudha moves out on her own, having found work and a place to live. Anju and Sunil also must work to salvage their lives, whatever paths they may take.
Ultimately, this book is about transformation and growth. It is about expectations vs. reality. And it teaches a lot about the Indian culture, as well as what it is like to be immersed into a completely foreign culture. Sudha experiences a lot of transformation as she realizes the freedoms that come with a culture so different from her own.
Again, at the end, I was left wanting for so much more. I am hoping there is a third to this series in the making, and will be disappointed if there is not. There was so much left unanswered. Three lives have yet to be developed in the new paths they've taken.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Barbara on March 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
Vine of Desire continues the story of Anju and Sudha whom we met in Sister of My Heart. Even though Sudha and her daughter Dayita had already arrived in California at the end of the previous book, this book begins before they arrive in America to live with Anju and her husband Sunil. I suppose it was to reorient us and to provide insight into Anju's state of mind after the loss of her child. Sudha's visit was meant to help Anju recover from her grief while providing Sudha the time to think about her future now that she is a divorced single mother. But the hurt and desires of the 3 adults living together is not a recipe for healing and they struggle to find the right path. While America allows many personal freedoms they would not have in India, they are bound by the duty, tradition and honor that their heritage teaches. The obvious love triangle - Sunil is married to Anju, but in love with Sudha - adds a great deal of tension.
The author uses several creative writing techniques in this book that were not present in Sister of My Heart. For the most part, they helped me understand the inner conflicts of the characters. In addition to the alternating chapters which show you the point of view of Sudha and Anju (that I was so fond of in Sister of My Heart) there are first person accounts from several of the men in the book including Sunil and chapters narrated in third person. There are also letters back and forth between the mothers in India, the people in America, Sudha's suitors etc. But several of the writing techniques were annoying. The author frequently lists current events with special focus on the O.J. Simpson murder trial. I understood the point of including these newsflashes, but I found it distracting.
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