cover image Oleander Girl

Oleander Girl

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Free Press, $24 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4516-9565-6

An engaged woman in a traditional Indian family discovers harrowing secrets about her birth parents in the latest from Divakaruni (after 2010's One Amazing Thing). As her mother died in childbirth, Korobi Roy was raised by her grandparents, who led her to believe her father died in an accident. But after becoming engaged to the wealthy son of art dealers, Korobi's protective grandfather has a sudden heart attack and the truth about her paternity emerges, leading her on a controversial quest across the world to find a birth father she believes to be alive. While abroad and encountering American culture for the first time, jealousy and fear emerge in her fiance's family, threatening the perfect future she had secured for herself. A simplistic read with flat dialogue and uninspired description, this is a novel where plot reigns supreme, perhaps seconded by character development that would be more engaging if not surrounded by cliched prose ("Perhaps their hands had touched and she had shyly smiled..."). Though racial, cultural and religious tensions are presented, the lack of originality in narrative form prevents emergent discussion. Divakaruni is not at her best here, and has given us a read best suited for the beach or conversion into a daytime television show. (Mar.)