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Summary and book reviews of Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Sister of My Heart

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Sister of My Heart
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  • First Published:
    Jan 1999, 322 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2000, 322 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

Exceptionally moving, dramatic, and exquisitely rendered - a passionate novel about the extraordinary bond between two women, and the jealousies, loves, and family histories that threaten to tear them apart.

Anju is the daughter of an upper-caste Calcutta family of distinction. Sudha is the daughter of the black sheep of that same family. Sudha is startlingly beautiful; Anju is not. Despite these differences, since the day the two girls were born--the same day their fathers died, mysteriously and violently--Sudha and Anju have been sisters of the heart. Bonded in ways even their mothers cannot comprehend, the two girls grow into womanhood as if their fates, as well as their hearts, are merged.

When Sudha learns a dark family secret, that connection is threatened. For the first time in their lives, the girls know what it is to feel suspicion and distrust--Sudha, because she feels a new shame that she cannot share with Anju; and Anju, because she discovers the seductive power of her sister's beauty, a power Sudha herself is incapable of controlling. When, due to a change in family fortune, the girls are urged into arranged marriages, their lives take opposite turns. One travels to America, and one remains in India; both have lives of secrets. When tragedy strikes both of them, however, they discover that, despite distance and marriage, they must turn to each other once again.

Exceptionally moving, dramatic, and exquisitely rendered, Sister of My Heart is a passionate novel about the extraordinary bond between two women, and the jealousies, loves, and family histories that threaten to tear them apart. Only a novelist of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's sensitivity could create a tale as potent as it is poignant, and as true to the complexities of the human heart.

Chapter One
Sudha

They say in the old tales that the first night after a child is born, the Bidhata Purush comes down to earth himself to decide what its fortune is to be. That is why they bathe babies in sandalwood water and wrap them in soft red malmal, color of luck. That is why they leave sweetmeats by the cradle. Silver-leafed sandesh, dark pantuas floating in golden syrup, jilipis orange as the heart of a fire, glazed with honey-sugar. If the child is especially lucky, in the morning it will all be gone.

"That's because the servants sneak in during the night and eat them," says Anju, giving her head an impatient shake as Abha Pishi oils her hair. This is how she is, my cousin, always scoffing, refusing to believe. But she knows, as I do, that no servant in all of Calcutta would dare eat sweets meant for a god.

The old tales say this also: In the wake of the Bidhata Purush come the demons, for that is the world's nature, good and evil mingled. That is why they leave an ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About this guide
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novels Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices, as well as her collection of short stories, Arranged Marriage. We hope that they will provide you with new ways of looking at and talking about these three books by a gifted writer, whose chameleon-like voice and mastery of rhythm create unforgettable characters and weave stories that are both exotic and familiar, fresh and universal.


About Sister of My Heart
In Sister of My Heart, Divakaruni tells the moving story of two cousins, Sudha and Anju Chatterjee. Born twelve hours apart in the same house, the women consider themselves twins, and from...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Wall Street Journal

Ms. Divakaruni emphasizes the cathartic force of storytelling with sumptuous prose...she defies categorization, beautifully blending the chills of reality with rich imaginings.

Publishers Weekly

Mesmerizing...a masterful allegory of unfulfilled desire and sacrificial love.

Author Blurb Rosellen Brown
What an irresistibly absorbing immersion in the pleasure and anguish of growing up passionate in a world of duty, where each comfort is hedged with a constraint and love unsettles every plan. Sister of My Heart may be alive with exotic detail but its emotions are very recognizable.

Author Blurb Amitav Ghosh
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's account of family life in Bengal is warm and richly detailed. Hers is one of the most strikingly lyrical voices writing about the lives of Indian women today.

Reader Reviews
durai selvi

lovely
It is the book of love and care between two sisters. I amazed by reading. thank you chitra sister. Write like this to enlighten the society

radbad35

This book was amazing....I was wondering if anyone had a character list if the book. Read it! The first two charcters are the book are confusing with many charcters being introduced but read on. It's exciting!

Anonymous

I loved this book and am recommending it as summer reading for my reading group. It is beautifully written and a very compelling story.

J. Tatsch

Seeing the events through the eyes of Sudha and Anju in alternating chapters makes an interesting read. All the details of a family life in Calcutta, especially the expectations of the extended family are fascinating and incorporated naturally into ...   Read More

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