Synopses & Reviews
"Beautifully told stories of transformed lives. Both liberated and trapped by cultural changes on both sides of the ocean, these women struggle fiercely to carve out an identity of their own". -- The San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the bestselling author of the novels Sister of My Heart
and The Mistress of Spices
; the story collections The Unknown Errors of Our Lives
and Arranged Marriage,
which received several awards, including the American Book Award; and four collections of prize-winning poetry. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Ms., Zoetrope, Good Housekeeping, O: The Oprah Magazine, The Best American Short Stories 1999,
and The New York Times.
Born in India, Divakaruni lives near Houston.
For further information about Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, visit her Web site at www.chitradivakaruni.com.
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novels Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices, as well as her collection of short stories, Arranged Marriage. We hope that they will provide you with new ways of looking at and talking about these three books by a gifted writer, whose chameleon-like voice and mastery of rhythm create unforgettable characters and weave stories that are both exotic and familiar, fresh and universal.
1. How do the physical and psychological landscapes of India and America differ in these stories?
2. "The Word Love" is written in second person. What does this unusual choice of voice add to the meaning and impact of the story?
3. The mother-daughter relationship is a central theme in many of these stories. Is the author making a general comment about this relationship?
4. Most of the stories in this collection focus on women who are in serious danger, be it physical, emotional, or both. Do the stories leave you reason to be hopeful for these women? How?
5. Do the women in these stories view themselves as having choices? Are they correct in their views, or are they deluding themselves?
6. For Discussion: Divakaruni's Novels and Stories
What do the characters in Divakaruni's novels and stories lose and gain as they become more "American"?
7. In the story "Affair," Abha says, "It's not wrong to be happy, is it? To want more out of life than fulfilling duties you took on before you knew what they truly meant?" How is this idea further developed in The Mistress of Spices? In Sister of My Heart?
8. In Divakaruni's stories, women are wives and mothers, but the men are portrayed primarily as husbands, not fathers. How are the men's roles in the novels similar to or different from those in the stories?
9. How does the Indian immigrant experience compare to that of other immigrants--Spanish, Italian, Chinese?