Before We Visit the Goddess: A Novel (Paperback)
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A beautiful, “deeply affecting” (Kirkus Reviews) novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices about three generations of mothers and daughters who must discover their greatest source of strength in one another.
Sweeping across the twentieth century, from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston, Texas, Before We Visit the Goddess takes readers on an extraordinary journey through the lives of three unforgettable women: Sabitri, Bela, and Tara. As the young daughter of a poor rural baker, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but schooling is impossible on the meager profits from her mother’s sweetshop. When a powerful local woman takes Sabitri under her wing, her generous offer soon proves dangerous after Sabitri makes a single, unforgiveable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees to America with her political refugee lover—but the world she finds is vastly different from her dreams. As the marriage crumbles and Bela decides to forge her own path, she unwittingly teaches her little girl, Tara, indelible lessons about freedom and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.
Told through a sparkling symphony of voices—those of the women themselves and the men who loved them—Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental relationships, showing the deep threads of love and hope and bravery that define a family and a life. This is a “gracefully insightful, dazzlingly descriptive, and covertly stinging tale [that] illuminates the opposition women must confront, generation by generation, as they seek both independence and connection” (Booklist, starred review).
About the Author
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the author of sixteen books, including Oleander Girl, The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart, Palace of Illusions, One Amazing Thing, and Before We Visit the Goddess. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times, and has won, among other prizes, an American Book Award. Born in India, she currently lives in Texas and is the McDavid professor of Creative Writing at the University of Houston.
“Emotionally accessible…[Divakaruni] balances the ache of separation with the thrills of independence and self-discovery…her characteristic passion, nerve and insight into the troubled soul are here in full.”
— The Wall Street Journal
“Divakaruni proves herself adept with all the tools in the writer’s toolbox…Divakaruni makes use of two major writerly tools that seldom go together — tragic drama, and screwball comedy. What’s more, she finds entirely fresh ways to mete out the tropes of the South Asian immigrant story…hilarity deepens and clarifies the story’s dark tones…an heirloom tapestry.”
— The Miami Herald
“Before We Visit the Goddess is full of different voices, going back and forth in time, with beautifully written chapters that could stand on their own as short stories but add layer upon layer of complication, wonder, humanity and empathy when joined together…Divakaruni builds her female characters as multidimensional — highly complex, intelligent and nobody’s doormat… Divakaruni guides us along their journeys with beautiful writing, surprising laughter and a truly memorable ending…I can’t recommend this book enough. When it comes to fiction, Divakaruni is a new goddess on the Texas landscape.”
— The Austin American Statesman
“Divakaruni elegantly leads the reader through the twists and turns of life given the complications of culture, family expectations, and words left unsaid…the writing was crisp and clear. The characters were realistic and the dialogue believable. The story explores the dynamics of mothers and daughters caught in the cross-hairs of cultural and generation differences, as well as the complications of expectations, believed or real…Before We Visit the Goddess will leave the reader wondering about the relationship they have with their parents and what should be said before it is too late.”
— The Portland Book Review
“A novel about female strength and ambition and how one mother’s decision can affect the lives of her family for generations to come.”
“Takes readers on an exotic, visceral journey beginning in the mango and saffron-scented kitchens of 1950s India and ending in present day Houston, Texas.”
— The Santa Cruz Sentinel
"Three generations of headstrong Bengali women, their passions, secrets, regrets and mysteries, come to life through Divakaruni’s storytelling wizardry… Divakaruni brings us from the poor villages to the upper crust urban families, from India to Texas, to show how three courageous women struggle toward independence.”
"The best storytellers always keep you coming back. They have their unique signatures, a unique voice, that enchants the reader and draws them back to listen to one story, then the next and then the one after that. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one such masterful story smith. I am done with reading Before We Visit The Goddess for now, but I keep thinking about the characters, and I know that a re-reading is in store for the future.”
— The Reading Desk
“Divakaruni has created characters to be embraced despite their difficulties with each other; learned from when they stumble and fall; and celebrated as the picked themselves up again. There is grace and compassion in her writing as emotions spike and subside. Life-changing disappointments are tempered with kindness, and at no time does the author chastise a character for her imperfections.”
— India Currents
“[Divakaruni is] one of my favorite recent discoveries. Before We Visit the Goddess is full of different voices, going back and forth in time, with beautifully written chapters that could stand on their own as short stories but add layer upon layer of complication, wonder, humanity and empathy when joined together.”
— Austin 360
“The always enchanting and enlightening Divakaruni spins another silken yet tensile saga about the lives of women in India and as immigrants in America…Divakaruni’s gracefully insightful, dazzlingly descriptive, and covertly stinging tale illuminates the opposition women must confront, generation by generation, as they seek both independence and connection."
— Booklist (Starred Review)
“Richly drawn characters…a novel of quiet but deeply affecting moments.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“An extraordinary journey told through a sparkling symphony of male and female voices."
— Indo American News
"There are few writers who get the setting, characters and story pitch perfect, like Divakaruni does, every single time. Before We Visit the Goddess is no exception. Brilliantly magical, lyrical and powerful, it is in keeping with the tradition Divakaruni has made of capturing the Kolkata spirit and the strength of its women. A richly woven tapestry of three generations of ancestresses, goddesses and women… Divakaruni's finest work yet, given its polished writing and intense, passionate characters.”
— India Today
"This book turned out to be the perfect palate cleanser…for the burgeoning bright glory of summer.The greatest strength of the book is Divakaruni’s three unapologetically complicated, fierce female protagonists.”
— Hyphen Magazine
“I will never forget Sabitri, Bela, and Tara: grandmother, mother, and daughter after my own heart. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni cycles through generations of time, until we come to know our ancestresses—and the goddess. A lovely book.”
— Maxine Hong Kingston, author of I Love a Broad Margin to My Life
“Tender, bittersweet, beautifully wrought tales about love and longing, exile and loneliness. I was reminded of the songs of separation sung by Bhojpuri women: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni discovers new nuances in the ‘biraha’ that creeps into the lives of migrants.”
— Amitav Ghosh, author of The Glass Palace