Summary and book reviews of Queen of Dreams by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Queen of Dreams

By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Queen of Dreams
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2004,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2005,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

In her most spellbinding novel yet, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni spins a fresh, enchanting story of transformation that is as lyrical as it is dramatic.

Rakhi, a young artist and divorced mother living in Berkeley, California, is struggling to keep her footing with her family and with a world in alarming transition. Her mother is a dream teller, born with the ability to share and interpret the dreams of others, to foresee and guide them through their fates. This gift of vision fascinates Rakhi but also isolates her from her mother's past in India and the dream world she inhabits, and she longs for something to bring them closer. Caught beneath the burden of her own painful secret, Rakhi's solace comes in the discovery, after her mother's death, of her dream journals, which begin to open the long-closed door to her past.

As Rakhi attempts to divine her identity, knowing little of India but drawn inexorably into a sometimes painful history she is only just discovering, her life is shaken by new horrors. In the wake of September 11, she and her friends must deal with dark new complexities about their acculturation. Haunted by nightmares beyond her imagination, she nevertheless finds unexpected blessings: the possibility of new love and understanding for her family.

"A dream is a telegram from the hidden world," Rakhi's mother writes in her journals. In lush and elegant prose, Divakaruni has crafted a vivid and enduring dream, one that reveals hidden truths about the world we live in, and from which readers will be reluctant to wake.

1
FROM THE DREAM JOURNALS

Last night the snake came to me.

I was surprised, though little surprises me nowadays.

He was more beautiful than I remembered. His plated green skin shone like rainwater on banana plants in the garden plot we used to tend behind the dream caves. But maybe as I grow older I begin to see beauty where I never expected it before.

I said, It's been a while, friend. But I don't blame you for that. Not anymore.

To show he bore me no ill will either, he widened his eyes. It was like a flash of sun on a sliver of mirror glass.

The last time he'd appeared was a time of great change in my life, a time first of possibility, then of darkness. He had not returned after that, though I'd cried and called on him until I had no voice left.

Why did he come now, when I was finally at peace with my losses, the bargains I'd made? When I'd opened my fists and let the things I longed for slip from them?

His body glowed with light. A clear,...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
"A dream is a telegram from the hidden world." So writes the matriarch of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's mesmerizing Queen of Dreams. A novel that unites mystical, unseen worlds with the all-too-real dilemmas of modern life, this is the story of Rakhi's family–three generations with shared hopes and distinct memories. Rakhi is a single mother living in Berkeley, California, where she struggles to keep a teahouse in business while nurturing her career as an artist. Her mother is a dreamteller, born with the ability to experience and interpret the dreams of others. This double-edged gift allows her to preview fate, but isolates her from her daughter and husband. It is only through a painful, bewildering turn of events ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Divakaruni often focuses on the balance between two worlds - most often the world of Indian immigrants struggling to assimilate themselves into American life. While not moving away from this entirely, in Queen of Dreams she takes a somewhat different tack in order to explore the gulf between a mother able to interpret dreams and a daughter attempting to understand her.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (362 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Divakaruni does a good job working current issues into the novel and avoids synthetic characterization, creating a free-flowing story that will captivate readers.

Library Journal

Protagonist Rakhi is no queen (actually, she's a divorced artist mom). But she is struggling to understand her deceased mother's dream journals. Meanwhile, her own dreams are floundering as she and her Indian friends are attacked as terrorists after 9/11.

Kirkus Reviews

Richly textured and artfully told through the varied perspectives of believable characters.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Writing, as always, with wit and lyricism, Divakaruni masterfully illuminates the tangible and the numinous, the abruptly changing present and the deep past in a page-turner lush with emotional, cultural, and spiritual insights.

The Washington Post - Leslie Pietrzyk

Divakaruni's use of a plot that relies on coincidence and happenstance creates a similar problem. Mrs. Gupta says, A dream is a telegram from the hidden world. Here dreams are filled with portent and daily lives are laden with hidden meaning. And what's a coincidence? Rakhi notes; And what is an accident? asks her mother. Perhaps each detail of existence is taut with significance. One could almost be persuaded by the book's final, transcendent moments, when Rakhi finds the perfect web of connection that interpreters of dreams seek. Yet for all that beauty and hope, the ultimate frustration of Queen of Dreams is that its connections have come too conveniently packages, unexplained strangers, journals with answers, as if life were but a dream.

Deirdre Donahue - USA Today

Queen of Dreams, Divakaruni's 11th book, includes elements of magic, intuition and folklore drawn from India. But the story of the conflicted, discontented single mother is a darker, contemporary tale that will resonate with anyone who has struggled with modern love, mores and parenthood.

Reader Reviews
in-love-with-literature

As with all her books, Divakaruni has written this book in a style that's worth reading. The imagery and subtle symbolisms are striking. The topic is not a very realistic one, but the book is strewn with truths to which every human can relate. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Divakaruni is the author of at least 12 books, including novels, short stories, poetry and two novels for children.  Her work has also been published in about 30 anthologies. In addition to Queen of Dreams, you can browse Sister of My Heart (1999), The Unknown Errors of Our Lives (Short stories: 2001), Vine of Desire (2002), and The Conch Bearer (children) at BookBrowse.

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