Wednesday , February 28 2024
This is a completely satisfying story and illustrates both how alike and how different people are based upon the effects of their culture.

Book Review: ‘Oleander Girl’ by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Chita Banerjee Divakaruni is a mesmerizing storyteller.  Her latest book, Oleander Girl,will keep you engrossed from start to finish. It is an exciting exploration of modern India with characters who are easy to understand and care about.

Korobi Roy has been strictly but lovingly brought up by her grandparents following the tragic loss of her parents after her birth. She is engaged to be married to a handsome and rich young man and seems fated to a charmed if tradition-bound life.

oleander1But then Korobi’s grandfather dies, and everything changes.  A dark secret is revealed, and it sets Korobi on a mission to America to discover a part of her past she never knew existed.  The journey not only leads Korobi to new discoveries about herself but also triggers new challenges and discoveries for her prospective in-laws, The Boses, and her fiance’ Rajat, who are already facing business challenges in the changing and unsettling Indian political and social climate.  Even her grandmother, already struggling with the loss of the man who dominated her life for many years and now also separated from the granddaughter she has raised, has to learn and grow as she finds new roles for herself.

Korobi and Rajat are forced to grow up by these circumstances. Will their relationship survive?  Will Korobi choose India and Rajat or America and the opportunities for relationships and a different sort of life that it presents? Will Korobi find what she seeks?

One of the great things about this story is that it is not only the lovers who have to learn and grow and face challenges and failures as well as successes.  The book explores what happens when everyone’s seemingly stable life is shaken in many ways. Even the minor characters are fully realized and involved in facing their own evolution as they react to their problems and position in life.

The insights into such issues as racism and the class system in India, the volatile and sometimes violent confrontations between Hindu and Muslim, bosses and workers, tradition and change, are fascinating and are integrated fully into the plot in a seamless manner so that one is enlightened without any extraneous explanation necessary.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, Southern Crossroads: Georgia Bluesand Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.

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