Orphaned at birth, seventeen-year-old Korobi Roy is the scion of a distinguished Kolkata family and has enjoyed a privileged, sheltered childhood with her adoring grandparents. But she is troubled by the silence that surrounds her parents’ death and clings fiercely to her only inheritance from them: the unfinished love note she found hidden in her mother’s book of poetry. Korobi dreams of one day finding a love as powerful as her parents’, and it seems her wish has come true when she meets the charming Rajat, the only son of a high-profile business family.
On the night of their engagement party, Korobi’s grandfather dies of a sudden heart attack. His death reveals the family’s unexpected financial problems as well as a dark secret.
This secret will shatter Korobi’s sense of self and will thrust her—against the wishes of her fiancé and his family—out of her sheltered Kolkata life into a courageous and troubled search, in the company of an attractive stranger, across post 9/11America, a country that she finds at once dangerous, unwelcoming and alluring. What she discovers at the end will force her to make the most difficult choice of her life.
An Oprah Book Club Recommendation
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OLEANDER GIRL is now available in INDIA as well, published by Penguin India.
Advance Praise for Oleander Girl
“An entrancing storyteller with an unerring moral compass, Divakaruni has created a superbly well-plotted, charming, yet hard-hitting novel of family, marriage, and class, a veritable Indian Jane Austen novel spiked with racial prejudice and religious violence. . . . From baneful secrets, poisonous misunderstandings and conflicts, and transcendent love, Divakaruni has forged another tender, wise, and resonant page-turner.”
–Booklist, starred review
“Divakaruni, who has examined the lives of Indian women living in the United States in works like Arranged Marriage and Mistress of Spices, introduces a cast of characters who defy their stereotypes. Korobi’s ideal sacrificing grandmother has secrets of her own. Asif Ali, the Boses’ Muslim chauffeur, is much more than a humble servant. Bhattacharya, an ambitious politician, has a heart; and Rajat’s little sister, Pia, has amazing courage.
VERDICT Exploring the United States and India in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Divakaruni has crafted a beautiful, complex story in which caste, class, religion, and race are significant factors informing people’s world views.”
—Library Journal, starred review
“The first chapter of OLEANDER GIRL is a masterpiece —- a Dickens novel moved forward 150 years to post-9/11 2002 and eastward 5,000 miles to Kolkata, India. There is a full set of characters: Korobi, the orphaned Oleander Girl; her fiancé, Rajat; his powerful, manipulative family; the tradition-bound grandparents who adore her; and the array of servants who have helped raise her. There is cultural strife. We see the deep-seated discord between the Hindus and Muslims, the undercurrents of violent racial bias on both sides of the world, and the continuing struggle for financial success. The tension begins with Korobi’s dream of her dead mother and continues to build as her well-orchestrated life is revealed to be quite out of tune. And finally there is promise of change and renewal. Rereading the opening pages just reaffirms how beautifully Divakaruni creates a solid framework for the entire story laced with lush, exotic detail.”
“Chitra Divakaruni’s enthralling new novel, Oleander Girl, tells a love story that is more than just that. . . . The many memorable characters that people this novel make it a pleasure to read. [Divakaruni] lavishes as much care on secondary characters as she does on the principals. . . . [Her] tale is so well-plotted that few will guess the secrets at the heart of this page-turner.”
“Divakaruni uses her considerable storytelling skills to full advantage in her new novel.” (Oleander Girl)
“Oleander Girl is a coming of age novel in the best tradition, with a heroine who is both infuriating and endearing, and most importantly, brave. Having discovered a letter from her mother to her father, full of love but never sent, Korobi sets out on a quest to find her father. Along the way, she confronts enemies and finds helpers, faces temptation and despair, but in the end, overcomes all to discover what matters most. What is coming of age? Coming of age is understanding that the world does not revolve around you; that the world cannot be forced to conform to your version of it; that the adults you revered make mistakes; and that what endures is what you have given of yourself to others.
Korobi’s gift is the effort she makes to resolve her past with her present, and to overcome barriers erected both now and then. Divakaruni’s gift is story telling, and she is generous with her gift. Through her wonderful novel Oleander Girl, we become active participants . . . and grateful witnesses to the maturing of a child into a woman.”
“Part mystery, part search,. . . a many-faceted story of discovery.”
“Divakaruni’s new novel, Oleander Girl, is a showcase for the best-selling author’s ability to maintain her signature, beautifully-crafted prose while creating a complex set of deceptions, ruses, and lies, exposing the dark side of human nature. Twists and turns, suspense and revelations are plentiful, resulting in a novel that cautions the reader to expect the unexpected, for the easy road is never the one taken.”
“Divakaruni is a gifted storyteller whose characters breathe and whose plot twists challenge tradition, love, and family.”
“Compulsively readable, a real page-turner. I found it impossible to set this novel down once I picked it up. Chitra Divakaruni confronts the hard truths about love, loss, grief, redemption and the choices we make, in a family saga that reads like a detective novel.” —Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The World We Found and The Space Between Us
“When you think of thrilling page turners, you don’t usually think of fluid, graceful prose. But that’s what you’ll find in Oleander Girl. This is the gripping story of a young woman who leaves India in pursuit of a shocking family secret, only to learn far more about herself than she bargained for. It is also a story that bears out the wisdom of something one of the characters says: Never choose something because it’s easier. Chitra Divakaruni is such an elegant writer, one who makes the reader feel not only engaged and entertained, but a bit elevated, too. I’ve been a fan of Divakaruni’s work for a long time; this book keeps me one.” —Elizabeth Berg, New York Times bestselling author of Tapestry of Fortunes
“Oleander Girl is a riveting and powerful exploration of family secrets, betrayal, love, and ultimately, the search for self. Divakaruni paints colorful characters on a rich tapestry of modern India, all still haunted by the past.” —Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times bestselling author of Secret Daughter“Oleander Girl is elegant and classic, but also vivid and immediate. Love and loss and secrets collide in this powerful story of the way we live now. There is poetry on these pages, but also the burning-on-both-ends urgency of a page turner. Gorgeous and exciting, this is a wonderful novel.” — Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow