Two cousins, Sudha and Anju, are born on the same day, and share a mystical bond. When Anju was born she was placed on the stomach of her aunt who was in labor; it was Anju's wailing that inspired Sudha to finally come forth.
Sudha is beautiful; Anju is not. Anju is the daughter of an upper caste Calcutta family; Sudha is the child of the black sheep of the same family. Anju's mother is hardworking and responsible; Sudha's is not. Anju is polite and kind; Sudha is the more rebellious of the two.
But from the day of their birth, they are sisters of the heart. At one point, Anju says, "I can never stop loving Sudha. It's my habit, and it's my fate...Because I called her into the world and, therefore must do all I can to make sure she is happy."
But the family falls on difficult times, and both girls are encouraged to enter into arranged marriages. Sudha wants to run away and elope with a man she loves, but she discovers that, if she does so, she will ruin Anju's opportunity for a happy marriage.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has written an intense, powerful book about the close relationships that women form with each other. The story is absolutely unforgettable, and it will keep you thinking about your own relationships with your friends and relatives, and just how far you would go to protect them.
Reviewed by Judith Handschuh on January 23, 2011