After reading The Palace of Illusions, I greatly wanted to read more works, if not all works of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. There is something about her writing that clearly and instantly connects with the readers, at least me. As we say, touches heart. There is no high tech flowery language used. It’s simple and there is a lot of emotions in the words. Before We Visit the Goddess is a soulful tale of three generation of determined mothers and daughters- Sabitri, Bela and Tara, their aspirations, struggles, failures and ultimately finding light at the end. What makes this tale compelling is the reality etched in the problems narrated- the family crisis, the societal pressure, the difference in status, the need for education, financial issues, love- everything that could happen to each one of us.
Sabitri is a young, ambitious and resolute girl. Coming from a poor family, she craves for education. Leelamoyi, an arrogant rich woman decides to sponsor Sabitri’s education. She lets her to stay in her house as neither servant nor guest. Sabitri is happy with this golden opportunity but a huge blunder results in her being thrown out by Leelamoyi and shooting a full-stop to her dream education. Filled with revenge, she makes some very tough decisions to just prove a point, to herself. She gets married to Bijan, her teacher and mothers Bela. She loves her family a lot but somewhere she is a very unhappy woman. When her past catches up, it leads to her family getting broken. A down is always followed by an up. After the death of her husband, Sabitri with the excellent culinary skills she inherited from her mother, opens her own sweet shop and earns name and fame for her integrity and her quality of sweets. All is well except her relationship with her daughter, Bela. The book begins with Bela requesting her mother to write to her daughter, Tara, who has decided to drop out of college.
Bela is a rebel from the beginning. As much as she lived with her parents, she lived a lonely life. An unexpected incident permanently damages her relationship with her mother. Probably to prove that her decisions are way better than her mother’s, she elopes with her boyfriend to the United States and begins a family there. Loneliness never ceases to exist in her life. She is never comfortable with her new life. She loves her husband and her daughter, but there is regret and guilt which forces its way to the front. She compels herself to believe her life is good. But is it? The birth of her daughter Tara doesn’t repair any of the damages. At the end, she gets divorced and turns a drunkard.
Tara is the unfortunate soul of the three. She grew up always knowing something was wrong between her mother and father. When her father decides to break the news of the divorce something flips inside her. She wants to break away from everything and everyone, run away from everything, far far away. She drops out of college, has some casual flings, no steady job, no one to turn to in her misery. She turns her life around after an accident, meets the love of her life, gets married and brings some meaning back into her life. She decides to meet her mother, take care of her during her last days. That’s when she finds her grandmother’s letter, still sealed.
What was so good about this book was the sense of optimism and courage brought in my sudden strangers- men, in each of the three women’s lives. They are the benefactors. They don’t stay in their lives for a long time, but they bring in the feeling of life in them. It’s wonderful to see how Sabitri, Bela and Tara fight their problems and emerge successful at the end. It’s also satisfying to see how the achievement takes years of determination and hardwork instead of just few months as shown in movies. Sabitri, Bela and Tara lived almost all their lives away from each other and yet there was a strong bonding between them, an invisible love and concern. Probably it’s their need for approval from each other that caused them to become estranged.
The jumping of timelines was definitely tedious as a reader. Just when I am really getting interested in Tara’s life- Bela’s section is brought in and all I cared was to get back to Tara. Out of the three- I absolutely loved reading Tara’s life. The author has written how parents’ relationship is very vital for the sane growth of the children. Off the three, I couldn’t really connect to Bela much. She never found herself attached to Sabitri and the reason wasn’t strong enough for me. May be it is just expectations. Just like parents have expectations from children, children too expect their parents to be in a certain way. Sabitri’s life laid the foundation, but we don’t really get much more into her life after Bela left.
As a whole, this book is an absolutely fantastic ride filled with determination, courage and motivation. There are really nice tender moments, endearing friendships and moments of truth which we all would have come across.
Must read! Unputdownable!