Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Divakaruni is a book I have been looking forward to since I saw the pre-release publicity on Twitter. I got it over the weekend from the library and savored it over the course of this afternoon.
The book opens ominously to jackals howling in the night and dives right into the life of Sabitri now penning a letter to her granddaughter Tara. As she mulls the kind of wisdom a grandmother can convey across generations and oceans, we are teased into her life and the life of her daughter Bela. Three women. Three generations. Three lives. The books jumps across time and continents and threads them together in piece that is compelling.
The language is evocative, the book plays like a series of montages spotlighting mom, daughter and grandmother. The other characters appear in and out, pay their role and bow out. You watch from the sidelines and ache for each of these women. The tropes are plentiful and before you worry that it might head to its cliched end, they morph and deliver something of value. You have the aging senior who needs a sitter, you have the visiting professor, you have the masseur boyfriend, you have the gay friend. Each of these characters are delightful making you wish they would linger on, yet the story teases you and playfully jumps on to the next scene.
At a time when novels tell you more than you want to know and spend agonizing hours on showing what the characters feel and do, Before We Visit The Goddess is crisp, leaping between plot points making you pay attention. A lot is left unsaid letting you the reader pontificate. It leaves glimpses of things that happened, the future that could be and lets you fill in the details.
This is a book that I may be tempted to read again or suggest as a book club selection. Definitely a keeper!