THE TREE BRIDE

Bharati Mukherjee, Author . Hyperion $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4013-0058-6

India, past and present, its inhabitants and expatriates, has always formed the framework of Mukherjee's literary world. In this vibrant novel, a sequel to Desirable Daughters and her best work to date, the author has fused history, mysticism, treachery and enduring love in a suspenseful story about the lingering effects of past secrets. Tara Chatterjee, the protagonist of the earlier novel, again narrates. The tale begins as her San Francisco house is firebombed by a man obsessed with killing her, and trails back to her legendary great-great-aunt and namesake, Tara Lata, who was born in 1874 and, at five, married to a tree because her fiancé died. Later, Tara Lata bravely conspired to win Bengal's independence from England. As the narrator gradually discovers why her namesake died in prison, she uncovers much evidence of the British rulers' contempt for the Indians they claimed they were "civilizing"; their cruelty, bigotry and duplicity cut into the narrative like a bloody knife. The plot itself is convoluted in a suspenseful way: the drama begun by Tara Lata's wedding resonates in miraculous interactions over the generations. As Tara Chatterjee's husband, a technological genius, has always told her, there are no coincidences in the universe. Over the course of this story, a dreadful 18th-century sea voyage spawns one man's redemption and another's hatred; honor and courage are met by betrayal; and loyalty to one's family and tradition prove to be the fuel of 20th-century love. The narrative brims with more action and vitality than Mukherjee's previous novels while retaining her elegant and incisive style. It's a good bet that this book will attract wide interest and leave readers eagerly awaiting the third volume in the trilogy. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/16/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 293 pages - 978-0-7868-8866-5
Hardcover - 293 pages - 978-0-00-200592-0
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