cover image THE VINE OF DESIRE


Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, . . Doubleday, $23.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-385-49729-9

This exquisitely rendered tale of passion, jealousy and redemption continues the extraordinary relationship between Anjou and Sudha, the two exceptional women at the heart of Divakaruni's praised Sister of My Heart. The two cousins have traveled a lifetime away from their home city of Calcutta to California, a place so foreign to their native culture and traditions that they must constantly reevaluate their bearings and values. Anjou, miserable after a miscarriage and its unhappy effect on her marriage, and Sudha, fleeing both a husband whose family urged her to abort her daughter, and a first love who wants to take care of her and her child, hope to find solace in their sisterlike relationship. Divakaruni expertly juxtaposes the challenges, freedoms and crassness of modern-day America with the issues, both personal and cultural, each woman faces. Anjou uses Sudha to help her cope with a growing restlessness as well as with dissatisfaction with her husband, Sunil. Sudha is both comforted and suffocated by her life as an escapee from her past, becoming a servant in her cousin's household. At the same time, each woman must eventually acknowledge Anjou's husband's unspoken but obvious attraction to Sudha. Divakaruni combines a gift for absorbing narrative with the artistry of a painter. Her lyrical descriptions of the characters' inner and outer worlds bring a rich emotional chiaroscuro to an uplifting story about two women who learn to make peace with the difficult choices circumstances have forced upon them. Agent, Sandra Dijkstra. National author tour. (Feb. 1)

Forecast:Already a reading group favorite, and consistently hailed by critics, Divakaruni can expect excitement for this book to build quickly.