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Vine of Desire, Book Review

Chitra Parayath

"As my eyes adjust to the words that flow gently like waves over pebbles, my racing heart aches to lie still under that soothing blanket of water, a seagull singing its sad song for me flies overhead and the sky turns an ominous red as the blood in my veins paints that giant easel."

If you liked that sentence (a product of my wretched imagination), you'll love 'Vine of Desire'! Bogged down by over-the-top similes and metaphors the prose is laborious and forced at times. This reviewer went on a sensory overload with Divakaruni's visual eroticism. Lines of slender brown arms and rich, pungent kitchen smells leave me without passion, only with an urge to turn the page. Agreed, there is poetry in Bannerjee's words, she weaves magic with them, displaying a commendable command over the language, but it is tiresome nonetheless when one has to wade through pages of metaphors to get to the fact being conveyed.

A timeless tale of unrequited love and forbidden passions, Vine of Desire brings back two beloved protagonists from Bannerjee's earlier bestseller 'Sister of my heart'. Anju and Sudha reunite in San Francisco, both nursing deep wounds, the former a miscarriage and the latter a broken marriage. Sudha walks into Anju's and Sunil's home and their hearts with her toddler daughter Dayita. There grows a vine of desire, deception and disillusionment, tangling four desperate lives and changing them forever. The ties that bind Sudha, Anju, Sunil and Dayita are wrought with conflicting emotions. Sunil sports, through out the story, a massive passion for his wife's cousin, a feeling she reciprocates to some extent. The resolution is simple but well thought out.

The letters that go back and forth between the matriachs in India and two protagonists mirror the cultural background of the characters , serving also as an introduction to readers who missed 'Sister of my heart'. Readers are also introduced to complex relationships between various characters, dead and unborn who are vital to the tale. Bannerjee's characters are self involved, thoughtful and think and speak lyrically.

Anju seems increasingly neurotic and uptight and Sudha narcissistic and self pitying . The wise cracking physician seems more a caricature than a flesh and blood character. Sunil's character is the most believable of the lot . Banerjee , never known to delve too deep into her male characters has dealt Sunil more perception and depth than ever before. Sunil's frustrations, his conjugal alienation and forbidden passions make him believable and interesting. I wish I could say the same about the others though. After the first few pages , one begins to tire of the perils facing the character and starts yearning for a speedy resolution.

Emotional conflict here is universal, most Indian immigrants to this country can identify and sympathize with the uncomfortable juxtaposition of cultures.

My twelve year old daughter , a voracious reader, enjoyed both 'Sister of my heart' and 'The vine of desire'. I don't think she is the target demographic Banerjee intended her book to reach.

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