Review

The Unknown Errors of Our Lives

by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni



There is so much humanity, so many poignant moments in the stories
in this collection by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, that each one
feels like it carries the weight of a century's worth of knowledge
about some aspect of the human spirit, tradition, dedication,
commitment, and the love for things greater than yourself --- your
children, your homeland, whatever that may be. THE UNKNOWN ERRORS
OF OUR LIVES is a seemingly slim volume that carries a million
times its book weight in beauty.

In "The Lives of Strangers," a young woman who has survived her own
suicide attempt ends up finding great empathy for a mysteriously
quiet yet strong Indian woman on a trip to Kashmir. This is the
kind of story that wins awards, big awards, the kind of awards that
get the story read in English classes all around the country for
years to come. Divakaruni is at the height of her powers as a
storyteller here, and then goes on to top this wondrous achievement
with the story "What the Body Knows," about a new mother's
difficult journey between life and death and what pulls her safely
to the other side. These are the small moments, the exquisite
details of the emotional lives of women who have experienced the
Mardi Gras side of capitalist America but who know that the answer
to their souls' very being lies with the old world traditions and
family experiences left behind in India. These stories are about
the building of bridges between old and new, even if, in the end,
old seems more substantial. Divakaruni's work is disquieting but
remarkably profound.

It is rare to find stories that mark you in such a way, as if you
had been an eyewitness to some truly horrible event, then had the
lucky chance to walk away unscathed, except for the inner pictures
you carry with you from that day. Whatever you learn from these
near-miss situations is summed up in Divakaruni's THE UNKNOWN
ERRORS OF OUR LIVES --- time is fleeting, carpe diem, everything
old is new again. The hearts and minds of these characters will
matter to you as if they are members of your own family --- and the
honest and utter pain and spirit with which these (mostly) women
face their predicaments will haunt you well into your own life,
every day of it. You don't have to be Indian to get the gist of
what she's saying. THE UNKNOWN ERRORS OF OUR LIVES is a great
literary achievement.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 24, 2011

The Unknown Errors of Our Lives
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

  • Publication Date: April 17, 2001
  • Genres: Short Stories
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 038549727X
  • ISBN-13: 9780385497275