Before We Visit the Goddess
Three generations of headstrong Indian women struggle to accept the circumstances of their lives and grapple with their relationships with their mothers. The narrative begins with Sabitri. An intelligent and ambitious young girl, Sabitri longs to go to university, but her parents, a part-time priest and a village sweet maker, could never afford the tuition. When a capricious matron offers tuition and a place in her home in the city, Sabitri thinks her dreams have come true. She is mistaken. Later, her daughter Bela has different dreams. Bela abandons her education and her family to elope to America with a student leader of the Communist Party. Bela’s fantasies of love also disappoint. Finally there’s Tara. The product of parental dissension and her mother’s cultural isolation, Tara doesn’t exactly know who she is or what she wants. Before their stories end, each will come to better understand her relationship with her mother and wish she’d valued the relationship more.
Before We Visit the Goddess was almost painful to read because of Divakaruni’s skill in rendering realistic characters. I felt the women’s isolation, their regret, and their powerful longing for love. Though the protagonists are Indian, Divakaruni has managed to highlight the fault lines, the difficulties in communicating, and enduring love present in most, if not all, mother/daughter bonds.
Simon & Schuster
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee