Literature+Fiction,  Women in Books

Chitra Banerjee and Before We Visit The Goddess #AtoZChallenge


“Ebb and flow, ebb and flow, our lives. Is that why we’re fascinated by the steadfastness of stars? The water reaches my calves. I begin the story of the Pleiades, women transformed into birds so Swift and bright that no man could snare them.”
― Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Before We Visit the Goddess

If ever you feel like reading a fiction, that holds within its pages a deep tale, with elements of profoundness, pick Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Her writing surpasses all, and the stories never fail to grip me. Her earlier books such as Palace of illusions, Oleander Girl and Mistress of Spices, have been bestsellers and portray human relationships and its complexities in a unique way. I wouldn’t put “Before we Visit the Goddess” as her best, as the book did fail on many fronts. However, I loved the depiction of the three women, spanning across generations.

Women who learn to fight their odds

The three women in the book- Sabitri, Bela and Tara are distinctly apart, yet none crumble despite the agony and pain of betrayal they encounter. As relationships fall apart, its pieces are more difficult to gather. These women attempt to find respect and purpose in life, trying to put as much of the pieces back together.

“Before We Visit the Goddess” opens with Sabitri. Frail and stricken with old age, she has never met her American born granddaughter Tara. When Tara decides to drop out of college, on an impulse she begins to pen a letter to her. She writes, detailing her own life, her reminiscences of her past and all that she had endured. She was the daughter of a poor sweet meat -maker in rural Bengal. As a young girl when Sabitri falls in love with a boy from a rich household, little did she realize she would be discarded from her own community. Her life takes a turn when she seeks refuge in a professor whom she eventually marries. Years later, she finds herself yet again staring at an uncertain future, as her husband dies, forcing Sabitri to take charge of life and her daughter Bela.

Hurdles in life require inner strength to overcome

Over the years, life and fate take Sabitri on a roller coaster ride. Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees to America with the one she loved leaving Sabitri to live life alone. But destiny had other plans and Bela is forced to search for her own path. Disconnected from her country and culture, she passes on much more than the bitterness of her life, onto her daughter Tara.

Sabitri is the ambitious and resilient one. Bela is talented and strong willed, despite her lack of an enterprising skill and ambition, one which her mother possessed. Tara, disconnected from her roots, grows into a rebel. Despite the tumultuous relationship with her mother after she throws away an education, she tries to make her own path in life.

Shades of human emotions

Before we visit the Goddess portrays shades of human emotions. Where one’s weakness can pull them down, it is their inner strength that aids in rising above the tide. Sabitri, Bela and Tara, with all their flaws and weaknesses, possess within them an unknown strength, that teaches them to rise above their turmoil and find their way back on shore.


This post is a part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge where I write about twenty six women characters from books, who have left an impact on me. You can read the previous posts here- Women in Books

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  • Soumya Prasad

    3 generations of strong women! Wow, I need to read this one soon.

    I have loved ‘The Palace Of Illusions’ by the author and haven’t read anything else of hers till date, but this one straight goes to my TBR.

  • Natasha

    I’m a big fan of Chitra Devakaruni Banerjee, though over the years I feel her books have lost their lustre and tend to be a bit too melancholic for my taste. I love your review. You write so beautifully Ramya. But I’m not too sure I would want to read this one. It does not seem to pique my interest and seems way too sappy.
    Loving your book reviews. Are you reviewing any of Liane Moriarty’s too?


    April Anecdotes

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Thanks for your words Natasha. I am not reviewing Liane’s books this time, though may write about Big Little Lies after the challenge. AGree this book of Chitra isnt as good as her earlier ones, but when I look at the characters, independently they did leave an impact on me. Thanks for dropping in.

  • Anagha Yatin

    Three women, three generations, three different set ups…yet they all are bound to each other not just because of the blood relation but because of the a common trait of fighting the odds the spirit of warrior! Absolutely engrossing plot and personalities.
    Thanks Ramya for introducing this book.
    By end of April, I am sure going to have 26 books purchased!!! Hahahaha.. and thats most welcome.

  • mammaspeaks

    As luck would have it, I had read this book a couple of months ago and fell in love with it. It took me a long time to decide who was the bravest woman of all, or who I liked the most. I would pick up Sabitri! Loved her for her courage, her ability to pick her life and go on with it without once complaining.

  • rashimital

    You have picked up a great theme, Ramya.. I too was thinking of a book theme earlier, but unfortunately couldn’t execute it. But, I must say, you have collaborated books with Women (I hope i got this right) brilliantly. I still have to read Palace of Illusions (it’s been sitting in my bookshelf for long now) and now this book. I love reading and women-oriented books tempt me like anything. Thanks for the review and esp the theme. 🙂

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Yes Rashi, I have curated books where the women as characters have left an impact on me. This books is by a woman, and of women!!!

  • Shalzmojo

    I have only read Palace of Illusions and wasnt overtly impressed with the whole writing. Dont get me wrong- I loved the premise of the book; Mahabharata from the eye of Draupadi who BTW was born to wreck destruction of this “kul”. But the book failed for me on many fronts as I found it a bit cliched; some of the reasoning didnt gel well. So never went back to another book by her again; your review also tells me not to pick up this book. I love the names of all of her books though. And I think i have read Mistress of Spices too or rather tried to 😉

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Oh thats Ok Shalz.. all books need not appeal to one and all.. HEr books may seem a tad slow too, but i love her female centric books.

  • Balaka

    I agree with you when you say that the writing of Chitra is profound and holds tales within the pages. The use of imagery and allegory is intense in her writings. I just finished reading Mistress of spices. I am loving your book reviews. Looking forward to more.

  • Mayuri6

    I am a huge fan of CBD. Somehow this book disappointed me. It was great in parts, but over all disappointing. I am loving all the reviews you’ve shared so far and waiting to see which authors are next!:)

    • Ramya Abhinand

      Agree Mayuri, in comparison to her earlier books this did fail on many fronts. Yet, I loved the story and interweaving of three generations

  • Tarang

    I have read this book. I love her writing, and The Palace Of Illusions inspired me both as a reader and writer.

    Now I am eagerly waiting for her Sita novel.

    • Ramya Abhinand

      SAme here Tarang… Though they have portions which do drag on, I still read her books for her vivid descriptions, and characters. Waiting for Sita eagerly 🙂

    • Ramya Abhinand

      I wouldnt say it is as good as her earlier one. But still worth a read. Probably she has set her own standards high with her earlier books and meeting up to that is tough.

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