Summary and book reviews of Vine of Desire by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Vine of Desire

By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Vine of Desire
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2002,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2003,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

In a novel that reunites the beloved characters of Sister of My Heart, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the emotional ties between two lifelong friends–and how they change when the husband of one is dangerously attracted to the other.

The Vine of Desire continues the story of Anju and Sudha, the two young women at the center of Divakaruni's bestselling novel Sister of My Heart. Far from Calcutta, the city of their childhood, and after years of living separate lives, Anju and Sudha rekindle their friendship in America. The deep-seated love they feel for each other provides the support each of them needs. It gives Anju the strength to pick up the pieces of her life after a miscarriage, and Sudha the confidence to make a life for herself and her baby daughter, Dayita–without her husband. The women's bond is shaken to the core when they must confront the deeply passionate feelings that Anju's husband has for Sudha. Meanwhile, the unlikely relationships they form with men and women in the world outside the immigrant Indian community as well as with their families in India profoundly transform them, forcing them to question the central assumptions of their lives.

A moving and satisfying sequel to Sister of My Heart, The Vine of Desire stands on its own as a novel of extraordinary depth and sensitivity.
Through the eyes of people caught in the clash of cultures, Divakaruni reveals the rewards and the perils of breaking free from the past and the complicated, often contradictory emotions that shape the passage to independence

Chapter One

The day Sudha stepped off the plane from India into Anju's arms, leaving a ruined marriage behind, their lives changed forever. And not just Sudha's and Anju's. Sunil's life changed, too. And baby Dayita's. Like invisible sound waves that ripple out and out, the changes reached all the way to India, to Ashok waiting on his balcony for the wind to turn. To their mothers in the neat squareness of their flat, upsetting the balance of their household, causing the mango pickles to turn too-sour and the guava tree in the backyard to grow extra-large pink guavas. The changes multiplied the way vines might in a magical tale, their tendrils reaching for people whose names Sudha and Anju did not even know yet.

Were the changes good or bad?

Can we use such simple, childish terms in asking this question? Neither of the cousins were simple women, though there was much that was childlike about them when they were together alone, or with Dayita. When Sunil was away.

Sunil. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Anju tells her unborn son, Prem, stories of who she "used to be before the accident of America happened to [her]" [p. 12]. What does she mean by "the accident of America?" How are Sudha's and Anju's assimilation into American culture affected by the different circumstances that lead them there in the first place? Why does Sudha choose to return to India, while for Anju the idea of returning to India does not even seem to cross her mind?

  2. How is the process of assimilation different for Anju, Sunil, Lalit, Trideep, and Sudha? Why are some more successful than others? Do the characters identify as "Americans" or as "Indian-Americans?" What do incidents such as Sunil's attacking the valet at the party for making derogatory comments about ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Overwrought and sluggishly paced sequel, continuing the tale of two Indian cousins who now find their close relationship threatened by old loves and new sorrows in California.

Library Journal - Robert E. Brown

Evocative and emotionally charged, this could be a good alternative for your Anita Shreve readers.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Poetic and bewitching, observant and compassionate, Divakaruni has a remarkable gift for intertwining romance with trenchant insights into the harsh realities of women's lives, whether they live in material comfort in Berkeley or in poverty in Calcutta, thus granting readers both visceral pleasure and clarifying aesthetic revelation.

Publishers Weekly

This exquisitely rendered tale of passion, jealousy and redemption continues the extraordinary relationship between Anjou and Sudha, the two exceptional women at the heart of Divakaruni's praised Sister of My Heart.

Reader Reviews
Shobha C.S.
There is poetry in this prose. It has abundant sensibility - subtle, delicate and with minor details, which is contemporary, ones, which we can identify in our life. when I was reading it, I could visualise each character, feel for them, and very ...   Read More

Hayley Techner



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