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Sister of My Heart: A Novel Paperback – January 18, 2000
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Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni made an indelible impression on the literary world with her first novel, The Mistress of Spices, a magical tale of love and herbs. Sister of My Heart is less reliant on enchantment but no less enchanting as it tells the tale of two cousins born on the same day, their premature births brought on by a mysterious occurrence that claims the lives of both their fathers. Sudha is beautiful, Anju is not; yet the girls love each other as sisters, the bond between them so strong it seems nothing can break it. When both are pushed into arranged marriages, however, each discovers a devastating secret that changes their relationship forever.
Sister of My Heart spans many years and zigzags between India and America as the cousins first grow apart and then eventually reunite. Divakaruni invests this domestic drama with poetry as she traces her heroines' lives from infancy to motherhood, but it is Sudha and Anju who give the story its backbone. Anju might speak for both when she says, "In spite of all my insecurities, in spite of the oceans that'll be between us soon and the men that are between us already, I can never stop loving Sudha. It's my habit, and it's my fate." Book lovers may well discover that reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is habit-forming as well. --Margaret Prior --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Like the old tales of India that are filled with emotional filigree and flowery prose, Divakaruni's (The Mistress of Spices) latest work is a masterful allegory of unfulfilled desire and sacrificial love. It is also an intricate modern drama in which generations and castes struggle over old and new mores. Anju and Sudha are cousins, born in the same household in Calcutta on the same day?which is also the day on which their mothers learn that both their husbands have been killed in a reckless quest for a cave full of rubies. Sudha grows up believing her father was a no-good schemer who brought ruin on his cousin, Anju's upper-class father. As they mature, Anju dreams of college, Sudha of children, but arranged marriages divide and thwart them. Anju adjusts to life in California with a man who lusts after Sudha; Sudha grapples with a mother-in-law who turns to the goddess Shasti to fill Sudha's barren womb rather than to a doctor for her sterile son. Ultimately, the tie between Anju and Sudha supersedes all other love, as each sustains painful loss to save the other. When Sudha learns the truth about her father and no longer needs to right his wrongs, she sees that all along her affection for Anju has not been dictated by necessity. An inspired and imaginative raconteur, Divakaruni is sure to engender comparisons with Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things), but Divakaruni's novel stands in its own right as a compelling read. If her prose sometimes veers toward the purple, her mesmerizing narrative sustains it well. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra; author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
While the problems and situations portrayed do happen (although far less in recent times), there is a severe lack of showing the good side of Indian culture, marriage and men. All men are not controlling, in-laws are not always so oppressive and marriages aren't always arranged nor so bad. Most importantly, a big part of Indian culture is the close-knit and supportive family and friends - which is totally lacking in the story. All the tea-time aunties are portrayed as malicious gossipers. Where is Gouri's family or Pishi's other relatives? The author makes it seem that once a woman is married, her family disconnects from her and all other women (apart from the Chatterjee household) want to do is gossip and hurt each other. Way too much exaggeration and very lopsided portrayal. For those not familiar with the culture, this would paint a very incomplete and inaccurate picture.
However, nothing can beat the ruby mine adventure in the jungles... so far fetched and silly that I almost put the book away at that point (and continued to read only because of the high ratings). A better reason for the men's disappearance would have made it more realistic. The plot is also very weak. By the end, when everything comes together, the story has a soap opera feel to it.
It's interesting to learn a little more about the lot of women in India, the cultural pressures they experience and the traditions they observe.
The writing is beautifully descriptive.
Having said that, the author can turn a phrase, and she shines when writing the fairy tales that the main characters tell each other.
Sudha and Anju have shared everything in their young lives: Anjou is studious, practical, and usually willing to defer to the shining beauty of her cousin; Sudha, perhaps by virtue of her beauty, is hungry for experience and romance, cushioned by an excess of naivete. Plagued by insatiable curiosity, Sudha demands to learn a family secret, which alters her life and personal choices forever, affecting the bond forged since birth.
We are party to the subtle changes of each young woman, in alternating chapters, until their maturity, marriage and coincedental pregnancies. As happens to all adults, they are forced to make painful decisions, ultimately drawing their charmed circle around eachother once more. But much of the pleasure of SISTER OF MY HEART is in the reading. I didn't want the story to end, and at the same time, couldn't stop reading it until long after midnight. Divakaruni is a writer to treasure, a writer of the heart.