Sister of My Heart

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, the genius storyteller, pulled out yet another masterpiece from her magical hat of creativity: Sister of My Heart. Even though Anju and Sudha are cousins, their love for each other surpasses that of the real sisters. Anju — the outspoken, straightforward, and rebellious one — balanced out Sudha — the beautiful, soft-spoken, and compliant. Since their fathers died before the girls were born, they were raised in a matriarchal household under the watchful eyes of their mothers and their aunt.

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While Anju’s mother, Gauri, spent all her days taking care of their bookstore and managing financial aspects of the house, Sudha’s mother, Nalini, criticized, nagged, and tormented the girls with her backward thinking. Their aunt, whom the girls called Pishi Maa, was their source of stories and family secrets. It was Pishi Maa, who revealed to Sudha a secret so heavy that threatened to uproot the solid foundation of the girls’ love for each other. When the time arrived for Sudha to make the biggest decision of her life, the knowledge of this revelation pushed Sudha to sacrifice her happiness.

I hate Aunt Nalini for constantly telling Sudha and me about how good girls should behave, which is exactly the opposite of whatever we’re doing at the time. I hate the endless stories she insists on repeating about her childhood. I know these stories aren’t true — no-one could possibly be so virtuous, especially not her. Worst of all is when she makes up little rhymes with morals tagged onto them. Good daughters are bright lamps, lighting their mother’s name; wicked daughters are firebrands, scorching their family’s fame.

– Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s frustration with society’s oppressive and backward rules regarding women is evident in the pages of Sister of my Heart. Anju and Sudha’s ascent into adulthood highlighted prevalent prejudices and boulders of expectation on the backs of women. While Anju argued in a strong voice with her husband, Sudha silently obeyed her mother-in-law’s high demands. On the one hand, the audience cheered Anju whenever she opened her mouth or conspired silently to get her way; on the other hand, however, they patiently waited for Sudha to throw a tantrum that was way past overdue.

But never Sudha. I could never hate Sudha. Because she is my other half. The sister of my heart.

– Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Both the characters evoked intense emotions, engulfing the readers to the storyline and rendering them helpless to put down the book. The gradual transition of Anju and Sudha from giggling, dreaming girls to out-in-the-world, mature women was almost spellbinding. It was heartbreaking to watch Sudha suffer and enthralling to see Anju settle in the USA. As their relationship went through the turmoils of a disturbing secret and a blinding spell of jealousy, the readers held their breaths to see them survive the storm.

Anju didn’t give up, though. ‘What’s more important, a living daughter’s happiness, or a promise you made to a dead man, who is dead because he abandoned us to run after some stupid scheme?’

‘Don’t talk about your father like that,’ Pishi cried sharply. ‘You ungrateful, disrespectful child.’

‘Or is it because I am a daughter that my happiness doesn’t matter?’

– Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The side characters, including the mothers, Pishi Maa, and the driver, strengthened the already gripping plot. By adding a pinch of philosophy and profound wisdom, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has crafted some unforgettable dialogues in Sister of My Heart. The bite-sized chapters paved the way for a slow-paced story that would reside in the hearts of its readers for a long time. Having said that, a couple of unanswered bits would gnaw at the readers even after turning the last page. Sister of My Heart is yet another compelling book by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni for her devoted audience. The feverish love story of Sudha and Ashok generates empathy and apprehension for Sudha’s future, while Anju’s husband’s inclination toward Sudha stabs at both Anju and readers’ hearts.

Dowries are a slippery issue, I have come to learn. A good bridegroom’s family never demands a particular amount of money, or a certain list of items. That would be too gauche. And so the bride’s party has to anticipate their wishes and go beyond them, because if they don’t, it might affect their daughter’s future.

– Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

If you are the type of reader who loves cuddling with a book that excels in narration and reflects on the ebb and flow of a woman’s life, then Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is just the book for you. Moreover, if you share a special bond with your sister, then, too, you cannot go wrong with Sister of my Heart.

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