Oleander-Girl-by-Chitra-Banerjee-Divakaruni-667x1024Reviewed by Jessa Larsen

Korobi has grown up enjoying a privileged childhood, raised by her adoring grandparents, and living in a beautiful mansion in Kolkata, India. Despite having a good life, she remains curious about the silent shroud hanging over her past. She doesn’t know much about her parents and knows only that they both died shortly after her birth. The only remnant she has is a love note she found, hidden in a book of poetry that once belonged to her mother. Although she wishes to know more, her grandparents are very strict about the fact that neither her mother nor her mysterious father ever be mentioned. She can only read a love note from long ago and hope she finds the love that she believes her parents once had.

It seems like Korobi’s dreams are finally coming true when she meets Rajat, the charming son of a high-profile business family. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that her happiness is meant to be. Shortly after her engagement party, a sudden heart attack kills Korobi’s grandfather. As if the tragedy of death isn’t enough, his death reveals more about the past than Korobi may be able to handle. To the shock and dismay of everyone around her, Korobi sets off for America to try and discover her true identity. The pieces of a puzzle that make her whole. What she finds in America though, may be much more than she was looking for and thrusts her into what might be the most difficult decision of her young adult life.

I enjoyed reading about how Korobi coped with the hand she was dealt and it was interesting to see the cultural and societal affect of growing up as a proper female in India. A lot of decisions are extremely tough for her because it is not typically culturally acceptable to be anything other than a submissive female and wife. Korobi had massive amounts of courage and the way she navigates through tough waters is incredible and inspiring.

Oleander Girl is beautifully written and the story I originally thought to be easily predictable turned into something else entirely. The insightful points of view from two sides of what seem to be the same culture are utterly fascinating. Divakaruni shows us a spectrum of high-society India as well as how Indians adapted to life in America. It was intriguing as well as heartbreaking to see how darker skinned people fared after the events of 9/11. Oleander Girl will definitely open your eyes as well as enchant you.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.