I got introduced to the author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni through her novel Palace of Illusions. Needless to say I really liked that book. So now when Sridevi, a very dear friend and an avid reader told me about the Oleander Girl by Divakaruni, I had to read it.
The story is about a young girl named Korobi who is orphaned at birth and is brought up by her maternal grandparents in Kolkata. As any other normal eighteen year old, Korobi too dreams of a handsome young prince who will come in her life and sweep her off her feet. This dream turns into a reality when she gets engaged to Rajat Bose, son of Mrs and Mr Bose who own a very famous and successful art gallery in Kolkata. Though happy about her engagement, Korobi has a deep yearning to know more about her dead parents. They are a mystery to her as her grandparents never spoke about them nor did they encourage Korobi to talk or ask about them. So when her grandfather passes away0 suddenly on the night of her engagement party, her grandmother reveals a secret to Korobi which changes her life forever. Korobi is forced to reevaluate all her existing relationships and go in search of that One truth, across the seven seas, to America that will make or break her life. In her quest to find the truth she meets many new faces who teach her about the different traits of man and they even help her to understand her own strengths and weaknesses.
It is a beautifully written story about a girl who starts has had a very sheltered upbringing, who is in awe of everything around her, unsure about what she wants. But by the end of the story she emerges as a confident young woman who is willing to fight for her self respect and who is strong enough to withstand any storm in her life, just like the Oleander flower.
All the characters in the story are very well etched with believable traits which we can all relate to. The one character whom I really liked is Sarojini, Korobi's grandmother. She is shown as a meek housewife who is always in the shadow her husband's name and title. But her inner strength, the deep love and understanding, her ability to brave the truth comes into forefront when she is forced to look after the huge house, its finances and her granddaughter after the untimely death of her husband. There is a line which Sarojini says that is the essence of ever person. " How many layers there are to a man's heart, tender spots beneath the calluses, hidden even from himself" .
I am partial to stories with happy endings because they always leave a warm fuzzy feeling in the heart and makes me smile. This is one such book. It is a sweet story which stays with you long after you've finished reading it and makes you want to believe in love and faith and trust.