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Book Review

Arranged Marriage

Chitra B Divakruni

From the bestselling author of “Mistress of Spices” comes a fascinating tale of mothers and daughters, love and cultural touch, all blended together. In this novel, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni spins a fresh, enchanting story of transformation. Chitra Divakaruni has been widely popular for her poetry and has garnered a lot of praise and awards for many years. Her unique writing style and elegantly tailored proses has made her one of the brightest rising stars in the changing face of American literature. Arranged Marriage, her first collection of stories, stayed there for five undisputed weeks on the San Francisco Chronicle best-seller list. This garnered massive critical acclaims, which would have been extraordinary for even a more established author. Young girls and women are brought to life through these stories, many of the female readers could relate to it as well. It is all about the possibilities of changes, of starting afresh or anew, being ready to deal with the situations bith mentally and physically, is both terrifying and equally positive filled with promises as the ocean that separates them from their homes in India. It is like a narrative from (the story of) a young bride whose fairy-tale vision of California is shattered when her husband is murdered. Unwillingly, and without any choice, she has to face the future on her own, to a proud middle-aged divorced woman determined to succeed in San Francisco. Divakaruni’s award-winning poetry fuses here with prose for the first time to create 11 devastating portraits of women on the verge of an unforgettable transformations that a woman goes through depending on the circumstances, which are similar yet independently different from each other. An Excerpt from the first story in Arranged Marriage, “The Bats”: “That year mother cried a lot, nights. Or maybe she had always cried, and that was the first year I was old enough to notice. I would wake up in the hot Calcutta dark and the sound of her weeping would be all around me, pressing in, wave upon wave, until I could no longer tell where it was coming from. The first few times it happened, I would sit up in the narrow child’s bed that she had recently taken to sharing with me and whisper her name. But that would make her pull me close and hold me tight against her shaking body, where the damp smell of talcum powder and sari starch would choke me until I couldn’t bear it any longer and would start to struggle away. Which only made her cry more. So after some time I learned to lie rigid and unmoving under the bed sheet, plugging my fingers in to my ears to block out her sobs. And if I closed my eyes very tight and held them that way long enough, little dots of light would appear against my eyelids and I could almost pretend I was among the stars.”

The book, “Arranged Marriage” has been a champion and has won an American Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles award, and a Bay Area Book Reviewers Award and went on to become a bestseller. It has also been adopted as a text in many college classes. The collection focuses on immigrants from India caughtbetween the two worlds: their own beauties and struggles. The characters are both liberated and trapped by cultural transformations as they grapple to make an identity of their own.
Publisher: RHUK
Availability: on Amazon at Rs 409 (paperback)

About the author

Ankur Kalita