Sister Of My Heart

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9780552997676: Sister Of My Heart

Born in a big old Calcutta house on the same night, the wild, tragic night their fathers were both mysteriously lost, Sudha and Anju are cousins. Closer even than sisters, they share clothes, possessions, worries, dreams - and three mothers, who preside over the matriarchal Chatterjee household. But when Sudha discovers a terrible secret about their past, their mutual loyalty is sorely tested. A family crisis forces the mothers to start the serious business of arranging the girls' marriages, and the inseparable pair are torn apart. Sudha moves to her new family'as home in rural Bengal, while Anju joins her immigrant husband in California. But nothing has prepared them for the pain, aswell as the joy, that each will have to face in her new life. Rooted in Indian folklore and steeped in the mysticism of ancient tales, this bright, jewel-like novel shines its light on the bonds of family, on love and loss, against the realities of traditional arranged marriages, and the adjustments needed for modern life.

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Review:

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni made an indelible impression on the literary world with her first novel, The Mistress of Spices, a magical tale of love and herbs. Sister of My Heart is less reliant on enchantment but no less enchanting as it tells the tale of two cousins born on the same day, their premature births brought on by a mysterious occurrence that claims the lives of both their fathers. Sudha is beautiful, Anju is not; yet the girls love each other as sisters, the bond between them so strong it seems nothing can break it. When both are pushed into arranged marriages, however, each discovers a devastating secret that changes their relationship forever.

Sister of My Heart spans many years and zigzags between India and America as the cousins first grow apart and then eventually reunite. Divakaruni invests this domestic drama with poetry as she traces her heroines' lives from infancy to motherhood, but it is Sudha and Anju who give the story its backbone. Anju might speak for both when she says, "In spite of all my insecurities, in spite of the oceans that'll be between us soon and the men that are between us already, I can never stop loving Sudha. It's my habit, and it's my fate." Book lovers may well discover that reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is habit-forming as well. --Margaret Prior

From the Inside Flap:

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.

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