It has been on my to-do list for this year to read Indian literature and explore new Indian writers. So I picked up Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s ‘Oleander Girl’ which was her first of mine, and also that it was a birthday present from a very dear friend.
I have read a lot of praise about the author of how she is one of the best storytellers. One of the magazine’s called her ‘skilled cartographer of the heart’. I was to experience it myself and find if it was really worth the hype and praise.
In the Oleander Girl, the story revolves around Korobi, a 17-year-old girl who loses her mother at birth, with no news about her father except to believe that he is dead. She is raised by her extremely protective and loving maternal grandparents until this age. She is just a few hours away from her big day; it is her engagement with Rajat, a pleasant man from a wealthy family, when a shattering secret is revealed to her, which changes the course of her life drastically.
Following her grandfather’s death, Korobi learns that her life has been a smartly woven fabric of secrets. She cannot stop herself from hating her grandfather for everything that he kept from her and involved her grandmother too in the crime.
Needless to say, when the past is dug a lot of stories spring up; unexpected and unbelievable. Korobi too learns harsh truths. For instance, she learns that her father was possibly never dead, that it was perhaps, a lie. But then it’s been 17 years. Where is he now? Why didn’t he ever try and find her? Is he really alive?
And now since she is planning to travel to America which possibly holds answers to all the questions, will her future family stand by her? Will they support her decision? What if they do not accept what she reaps and finds along on her journey?
I have mixed feelings about the book. Although I kept glued to the pages and read it for hours together, there was something amiss about the story. Apart from Korobi, the characters were feebly developed. Certain instances, I found Korobi week as a kitten and she portrayed a level of immaturity that could not escape my attention. But given the simple yet intriguing storyline, I could easily forget the little expectations the otherwise great book had built.
I’d dived head-first into the book and it does live up to the light heartfelt reading experience that you expect from it. Nothing but that made me fall in love with Chitra Banerjee’s style of writing. Least to say is, this book holds the penchant that makes you want to believe that there still is some good left in the world. This is quite your average book which is a nice cozy summer day read but whether she is one of the best storytellers, I shall have to try her other books to believe that.
If you happen to read ‘Oleander Girl’ or have already read it, do share your thoughts below.
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