Summary and book reviews of The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Conch Bearer

By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Conch Bearer
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2003,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2005,
    272 pages.

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About this Book

Book Summary

You are about to embark on a remarkable journey. It begins on the teeming streets of Kolkata, India, and will transport you across arid plains and turbulent rivers to a secret valley high in the Himalayas. Along the way you will encounter powerful spirits, both good and unspeakably evil; fantastical creatures; and a trio of intrepid travelers who will linger in your memory long after the last page of this book is turned.

In a dingy shack in the less than desirable neighborhood that he calls home 12-year-old Anand is entrusted with a conch shell that possesses mystical powers. His task is to return the shell to its rightful home many hundreds of miles away. Accompanying him are Nisha, a headstrong but resourceful child of the streets, and a mysterious man of indeterminate age and surprising resources named Abadhyatta . . .

This is fantasy of the first order; an exotic and compelling adventure story that is almost impossible to put down. It is also a significant literary achievement by a distinguished author, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.


A letter from the author…

Dear Reader,

Two different wishes led me into writing The Conch Bearer. One was to create a story for my two boys to enjoy and brag about ("My mom wrote a book, and guess who the 2 heroes are named after?") The other was, in post 9/11 America, to give the children of this country a book with Indian characters—foreign, strange, brown skinned characters— a boy & a girl that seem very different from them but turn out, in their hopes & fears, not to be that different after all. Characters (I hope) that they will come to love. When you love people in books, it's a little harder to hate people like them in real life, no?

Once I started writing, though, what took over was the sheer fun of creating a story—and a story with magic in it (which I've always loved). I wove in places I know and places I've only dreamed about. Folktales and myth and cautionary stories and contemporary hardship and impossibilities and things I plain made up as I went along. When I write my adult books, there's a critic in my head pursing his lips and going, No, no, no. For the entire length of this book, I exiled him. (It was wonderful! Maybe I'll never let him back in!)

And so I now have a third & final wish: that readers will have as much fun reading The Conch Bearer as I had writing it.

Happy Reading,

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Night Visitor

It was dark by the time Anand got off work, and he was very angry. Haru was supposed to let him go by 4 P.M., but he often found an excuse to keep Anand longer. Today he had claimed that Anand had not wiped the tables properly and made him do them all over again.

Anand had scrubbed the pocked wood of the tables furiously, biting his lip to make himself stay silent. Arguing, he knew, would only earn him a slap. Now he was going to be late for the market! Today was payday, and he had promised his mother that he would stop at the vegetable bazaar. For days now they'd had nothing to eat except potatoes and white radish boiled with rice, and he was tired of it. He had hoped to get a bunch of fresh, crisp spinach, or some sheem beans to fry up with chilies. But by now most of the pavement vendors would be gone. If only I had the power to run my hands over the tables and make them new and shiny! he thought. But no, if I knew how to work that kind of changing magic,...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
ABOUT THE BOOK
The story of The Conch Bearer begins on the teeming streets of modern-day Kolkata, India, where twelve-year-old Anand lives in a dingy shack with his mother and sister, Meera. Anand is captivated by stories of magic and the opportunities he believes it could create -- if only magic was a reality. However, everything begins to change when Anand meets Abadhyatta, a mysterious man who turns out to be a member of the magical Brotherhood of Healers. Abadhyatta recognizes something special in the boy and entrusts him with a conch shell that possesses mystical powers. Anand's task is to return the shell to its rightful home with the Brotherhood many hundreds of miles away -- across arid plains and turbulent ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

I read The Conch Bearer to our two children last year (then aged 8 and 10). We all enjoyed it and they always wanted to squeeze in a couple more pages when it was time to stop. One reviewer suggests that The Conch Bearer is merely a rehashing of Kipling - presumably comparing it to Kim. All I can say to that is I suggest the reviewer try reading Kim to a few elementary school age children and see how she does!   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Houston Chronicle

Motivated by the tensions and hate crimes that flared after Sept. 11, specifically those aimed at her ethnic community, Divakaruni strives to stress the similarities, not differences, among people through the tale of a 12-year-old Indian boy...The rich details in the story, cultivated from imagination, folklore and memories of the author's own upbringing in India, offer readers colorful snapshots of the land and its culture.

Dallas Morning News

With adventures, magic, spirituality, fantasy and a fast trek from Kolkata, India, to a hidden paradise high in the Himalayas (while dodging evil at every turn), The Conch Bearer is everything the perfect tale should be.

Kirkus Reviews

A rather bland tale, but the unusual setting might be intriguing spice for lovers of the genre.

Publishers Weekly

... fresh and riveting with details of India's smells, sights and tastes, with characters that possess both good and evil, and with her exploration of the fine line between faith and magic.

Booklist - Ilene Cooper

Starred Review. ... the pure beauty of Anand's destination is a shimmering Shangri-La come to life. This speaks directly to children, in a very enticing voice.

Author Blurb Kendal Rautzhan, children's book expert and syndicated columnist
... everything the perfect tale should be.

Author Blurb Jill Brooks, book buyer and children's event coordinator Anderson's Books in Naperville, IL (store recently feature on Oprah)
... fresh, original fantasy that is delightfully steeped in the scents and colors of India. What a welcome addition to our Mock Newbery list for 2004!

Author Blurb Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder in NYC
... brilliantly original fantasy that captures the magic of India's rich culture and traditions. A story that will be embraced by readers of all ages ...

Author Blurb Nina Barrett, book buyer and children's event coordinator for Women & Children First Bookstore in Chicago, IL
... this is just a great story. You're hooked by the characters from the moment you meet them and the action is pretty much non-stop.

Reader Reviews
Ryan Schoerner

Excellent
I adored this book and would advise anyone to give it a shot.

13yr old reader

The Conch Bearer
Even from the start, it didn't capture me. I found myself skipping chunks and still not missing out on the base f the story. I found that it went on and on and 'waffled.' This book changed my mood-for the worst. I found myself irritable and angry-- ...   Read More

Student from St.John Fine Arts

Amazing Book BUY$ BUY$
This book will capture your mind and give it a wicked, magical twist. The Indian Setting makes it more mysterious. Well Done Mrs. Divakaruni!!

Kevin kok

The Conch Bearer
A twelve year old boy named ," Anand " is entrusted with a conch shell that possesses mystical powers . Anand's task is to return the conch to its rightful home in Silver Valley. His task was given by a old man named , " Abhaydatta " , but Anand ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Divakaruni says she wrote the book for two reasons; firstly to give her two sons bragging rights that their mom had written a book and two of the heroes were named after them (sorry, I don't know which two!); and in our post 9/11 world, to give American children a book about children who might superficially seem very different to them, but in fact are not that different after all.

The Conch Bearer is the first in a planned trilogy. The second book, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming is due to be released in September. Unlike many series books, The Conch Bearer reaches a satisfying ...

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