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Anju and Sudha #1

Sister of My Heart

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Anju is the daughter of an upper-caste Calcutta family; her cousin Sudha is the daughter of the black sheep of the family. Sudha is as beautiful, tenderhearted, and serious as Anju is plain, whip-smart, and defiant. yet since the day they were born, Sudha and Anju have been bonded in ways even their mothers cannot comprehend.

The cousins' bond is shattered, however, when Sudha learns a dark family secret. Urged into arranged marriages, their lives take sudden, opposite turns: Sudha becomes the dutiful daughter-in-law of a rigid small-town household, while Anju goes to America with her new husband and learns to live her own life of secrets. Then tragedy strikes them both, and the women discover that, despite the distance that has grown between them, they have only each other to turn to. Set in the two worlds of India and America, this is an exceptionally moving novel of love, friendship, and compelling courage.

322 pages, Paperback

First published January 18, 2000

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About the author

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

61 books5,191 followers
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her themes include the Indian experience, contemporary America, women, immigration, history, myth, and the joys and challenges of living in a multicultural world. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and her writing has been included in over 50 anthologies. Her works have been translated into 29 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi and Japanese. Divakaruni also writes for children and young adults.Her novels One Amazing Thing, Oleander Girl, Sister of My Heart and Palace of Illusions are currently in the process of being made into movies. http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/books.... Her newest novel is Before We Visit the Goddess (about 3 generations of women-- grandmother, mother and daughter-- who each examine the question "what does it mean to be a successful woman.") Simon & Schuster.

She was born in India and lived there until 1976, at which point she left Calcutta and came to the United States. She continued her education in the field of English by receiving a Master’s degree from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

To earn money for her education, she held many odd jobs, including babysitting, selling merchandise in an Indian boutique, slicing bread in a bakery, and washing instruments in a science lab. At Berkeley, she lived in the International House and worked in the dining hall. She briefly lived in Illinois and Ohio, but has spent much of her life in Northern California, which she often writes about. She now lives in Texas, which has found its way into her upcoming book, Before We Visit the Goddess.

Chitra currently teaches in the nationally ranked Creative Writing program at the Univ. of Houston. She serves on the Advisory board of Maitri in the San Francisco Bay Area and Daya in Houston. Both these are organizations that help South Asian or South Asian American women who find themselves in abusive or domestic violence situations. She is also closely involved with Pratham, an organization that helps educate children (especially those living in urban slums) in India.

She has judged several prestigious awards, such as the National Book Award and the PEN Faulkner Award.

Two of her books, The Mistress of Spices and Sister of My Heart, have been made into movies by filmmakers Gurinder Chadha and Paul Berges (an English film) and Suhasini Mani Ratnam (a Tamil TV serial) respectively. Her novels One Amazing Thing and Palace of Illusions have currently been optioned for movies. Her book Arranged Marriage has been made into a play and performed in the U.S. and (upcoming, May) in Canada. River of Light, an opera about an Indian woman in a bi-cultural marriage, for which she wrote the libretto, has been performed in Texas and California.

She lives in Houston with her husband Murthy. She has two sons, Anand and Abhay (whose names she has used in her children’s novels).

Chitra loves to connect with readers on her Facebook author page, www.facebook.com/chitradivakaruni, and on Twitter, @cdivakaruni.
For more information about her books, please visit http://www.chitradivakaruni.com/, where you can also sign up for her newsletter.

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5 stars
6,209 (31%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,624 reviews
Author 17 books18 followers
August 11, 2008
Reading this novel is like letting your heart be the passenger of the wildest roller coaster. And, for me, roller coaster is frustrating.

So, yes, I was frustrated reading this beautiful novel.

It is full of secrets, revealed one by one within the chapters. When the secret was out, I felt like leaving the book on the table. It was too hard to keep up with.

But, I couldn't.

So, I kept on reading until the last page. It was just too beautiful to leave behind.

The characters, Anju and Sudha, are the roots of complexity of the story. Derived from what Sudha's father did, their relationship becomes complicated and beautiful at the same time.

I don't like Anju. And, I don't like Sudha either. I wish Anju would stop thinking only about herself or at least of what she thinks is right. And, I wish Sudha wants to think only about herself.

Just like other Divakaruni's stories, the ending doesn't seem to be like an end. Especially, since those two characters are reunited in "The Vine of Desire", another novel by Divakaruni. I've got it on my bookshelves. But, I'm not ready to read it yet. Maybe in another one month, after all the pain from "Sister of My Heart" disappears.

I suggest that this book should not be read while you are on PMS.


It took me more than 3 weeks to write this review down after I finished reading it. Just too painful. But, again, it's so beautifully written I couldn't just keep it for myself.
Profile Image for Mohamed Al.
Author 2 books4,826 followers
March 9, 2018
كلمتان لا غير : فيلم هندي !
Profile Image for Deb.
247 reviews79 followers
March 27, 2014
I have very few books that I have rated 5 stars. A 5 is reserved for the best of the best for me. Books that I look forward to carving out time to read, books that I think about when I'm not reading them.
My review won't do this fine little book justice. The writing was amazing, the story was engaging, the characters were real, there was emotion - joy, sadness, heartbreak, wonder, hatred, AND there is a sequel.
Maybe this is why I rate it so highly? I can't wait to curl up with these characters again in the next book that promises to pick up where this one left off.
This book reminded me of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, so if you liked that book you will love this one.
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,941 followers
March 5, 2019
Desgraciadamente mi segunda lectura para el #marzoasiatico no ha sido muy satisfactoria.
Me ha parecido un libro excesivamente melodramático y que se centra demasiado en el amor y desamor para que pueda gustarme.
Creo que le falta mucha sutileza y a sus personajes les falta realismo... No sé, es que todos me han sacado de mis casillas.
Pero no todo es malo, agradezco haber leído este libro por haber descubierto más cosillas sobre la India, sobre su cultura, mitología y sociedad.
Profile Image for Pankaj Giri.
Author 3 books217 followers
October 3, 2016
Finally I finished this gem of a novel today. But as I trod the final steps of this illuminating journey, I felt a pang of sadness. But then a thought struck me. You can read it again, stupid!

I came to know about Chitra Banerjee Divakurani ma'am in a Goodreads group. I went through her books and found 'Sister of My Heart' tugging at my hungry mind. I relented. As I plunged into the novel, within the first few pages I knew—this was going to be a wonderful read.

Before I knew it, I found myself immersed in the story. The characterization is extraordinary. Both Sudha and Anju are dipped in shades of grey. They make mistakes,
they learn, they apologize, they show kindness, they exhibit selflessness, they get jealous —a plethora of traits. The author has weaved the characters with multiple
threads of emotions, creating delectable personalities. But, after all, its reality—humans are complex creatures.

Now, let me come to the language. Well, let me just summarize my opinion with a single statement: When I read 'The Kite Runner', I realized what lucid, poetic writing
is, but when I read this book, I understood the extent of the beauty such prose could conjure. I was left reeling as a relentless barrage of delicious sentences assaulted
me like an army of chocolates. In almost every page I had to take a breather—saying wow inwardly—to shield myself from the lingering shock of delightful amazement. The exquisite usage of similes, the literary magnificence, the short yet sugary sentences had me on my literal knees, in obeisance to the mistress of prose, Chitra Banerjee Divakurani. I have developed a habit of noting down poetic statements in my note app for self-improvement. Well, this divine book exhausted three Google Keep notes. Reading this book has been one of the best things I have done in my short life, at least just for the prose.

Even the story reeks of brilliance. The plot is layered with amazing intricacy and evolves beautifully as the novel progresses. Mainly, it is driven by the characters and the problems and revelations they encounter on the way. The dialogues are drenched in startling realism, and on several instances, sweep you off your feet. But the narration is strange. Although it's linear, its not scene by scene like I prefer. Summarization of past events overshadows the story on occasions. This results in a little more telling than showing, which I've read is considered better, but the magic of the prose casts an invisible veil over your senses, luring you forward like a lover behind a dame. The reflections of the characters oozes of beauty, the magically relevant metaphors mesmerizing you like a spell. Secrets act like sledgehammers, slamming against you with sudden brutality, knocking you breathless. I was riveted to the story from the beginning to the end.

But the only minor snag I felt was, although the novel intrigued me throughout and pushed me on the verge of crying on some occasions, it was never successful in
reducing me to tears, like 'The Kite Runner'.

Nevertheless, this is a must read for all aspiring writers, those who want to write a quality book. Those who wish to pen mindless cheesy romantic books won't be able to appreciate its magnificence, though. But Chitra ma'am is a role model for me. 4.9 stars to this literary masterpiece by the most skillful writer I have encountered till now, by a long way.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,737 reviews14.1k followers
March 10, 2014
3.5 The first thing I noticed when reading this novel was how the prose was so descriptive, flowery almost, it just flowed so easily. Two young girls, raised as sisters, always together, as closer as two can be when their lives are derailed as secret is revealed. This secret will pull the girls apart and send them on different paths.

There are many more secrets to come and each one revealed changes the course of a life. I am not sure how I felt about these girls, I don't think I fully liked either one, but I did find them intriguing. Wished one thought more of herself, one a little less, but I did embrace the bond they shared. Apparently the girls appear again in a later novel by this author, which explains the ending that really did not seem like one.

A good book about the meaning of family, the detrimental effects of secrets, and the taste and smells of India.
Profile Image for Laura.
132 reviews565 followers
February 10, 2009
While this isn’t as mystical as Mistress of Spices, it’s as enchantingly and compellingly told. Two cousins in Calcutta are born prematurely into a household of women on the same day as their fathers die. Their lives are woven together like gold and silver threads, providing strength and contrast to each other as they grow together — and apart — through years, cultures, and arranged marriages. There are secrets, dramas, and...best of all...secret dramas! I loved the complicated relationship between the two cousins as well as the depiction of a culture so different from my own.
3 reviews1 follower
May 27, 2011
This is a late review. The book was published eleven years ago in 1999 by Doubleday. Yet, I hadn’t heard of the author until this month, even though I have seen the movie “Mistress of Spices”, based on her novel by the same title. After reading the book, I read a number of reviews of the novel. I wanted to see what other readers, critics and reviewers thought of the novel, especially the author’s style. Most reviews I read gave positive review of the novel and extolled the author’s gift of writing. But, I didn’t find in those reviews what I was looking for—her style and the beautiful employment of fiction metaphors and similes. Therefore, I decided to write this review.

The story is about two young women, Anju and Sudha, who are cousins, who grow up together, and who are born on the same day, the day both of their fathers die in suspicious circumstances in the predator-infested thick mangrove jungles of the Sundarbans. Despite the element of mystery and curiosity about the death of the fathers, this is not a mystery novel. It’s not a genre or popular fiction. It’s far from being a commercial fiction. The circumstances of the girls’ fathers’ death, therefore, is not the main line of the story, but only a critical foundation which thrusts the two girls to a lifetime of bonding as it does their mothers, Gouri Ma and Aunt N, and an aunt, Pishi, who all live in the same house as a close-knit family. With fathers dead and no other male members in the family, the upper-class Calcutta family of three women and two girls forms the central unit of the story. The story is about the relationship and bonding between Anju and Sudha, whose love and affection for each other is full of selfless sacrifice, open truthfulness, mutual dependence, cathartic devotion, and, at times, with slight jealousy. The author adeptly traces the story of the two young women from their childhood to their womanhood, as told in first-person narrative alternately by Anju and Sudha. Each is the sister of the heart of the other.

This review is, however, not so much about the story itself as it is about the author’s writing style. The novel is a literary fiction. The story is driven, as are all literary fictions, more by characters than by plot. Some acerbic commentators hint that literary fiction is a neologism and, despite the poetic and lyrical metaphors and similes that enhance the elegance of prose, makes the story unreadable. Notwithstanding, the generally accepted notion that literary fiction is the work of superior intellectual mettle than are those of genre, popular or commercial fiction. I do not agree that literary fiction is mostly unreadable. I believe those who make such harsh and unfair judgment are those who wish to read in literary fiction what are essentially the domain of commercial or genre fiction—stories essentially driven by plot. I do not imply that genre or commercial fiction are any less better (I actually enjoy them, whether Frederick Forsyth’s international political and crime intrigues or John Grisham’s legal suspense in the suburbia of America); I only say that Divakaruni’s work stands in a category that is obviously different from commercial fiction.

Divakaruni artfully tells the story in narratives full of similes and metaphors. Her prose is lyrical and is poetic. Divakaruni’s liberal and artful use of metaphors, which is mostly used in poetry, paints the story with a poet’s mind. She is, in fact, an award-winning poet (which I learn from the author’s introduction in the book). Divakaruni’s prose reads like poetry, even without verse. Her use of trope or figure of speech, while making sure they don’t sound trite, makes the story warm and pleasurable reading.

Divakaruni is an exceptional writer. But, of course, she is not the first literary fiction writer who liberally uses metaphors as prose style. Norman Mailer, a literary giant, for example, is a master storyteller who packs metaphors in his stories. Divakaruni’s use of metaphors, drama and passionately living characterization reveal her exquisite cognitive ability to observe or imagine lives in intimate and rich details and tell them in a way that makes readers feel they are not only observing a story but are, in fact, in the story. Her ability to engage readers is amazing.

One of Divakaruni’s unique style is that she creates her own metaphors that are at once meaningful to readers, instead of using the ones that have existed and been used by others (e.g., “bright as pomegranate juice” to describe a smile, or “my mouth is crowded with gravel” to describe how the narrator feels the need to retort to something she doesn’t like, or “the sun paints the wall golden” to tell the reader that the sun has shone in the room, or “smooth as molasses” to describe the smoothness of spoken words). This metaphorology is Divakaruni’s gift to readers, in addition to the story itself. This style adds additional dimension to Divakaruni’s skill as an author—that of a linguist using semiotics, symbolism and, to some extent, mysticism of words and phrases. She deftly spares the readers of archaism in her style, maintaining the high level of reader engagement and interest from beginning to the end. She elevates the work of storytelling to an art form.

Divakaruni weaves into the story elements of conflict as part of the story structure that keeps the readers engaged. The conflicts in her story are based more on characters than on plots. As a reader, I felt as though I was in the same room while the protagonists were engrossed in conversation, oblivious of my presence. She introduces element of curiosity, if not mystery, into the story in the early part of the story as a conflict that she resolves only near the end of the story (when Sudha, along with her infant daughter, Dayita, are on their plane flight to America). Between this early conflict and the eventual resolution, there is a lot of action in characterization. The characters in her story drive the plot.

This is Divakaruni's first and only novel that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far. It’s an emotional story that has an intellectual impact like such that a linguist and author with rich imagination can make. I liked the book for its warmth depiction of female bonding amidst complexities of life and wondered why I hadn’t heard of the author before, much less read any of her novels. Although literary fictions are not the primary source of information about cross-cultures; this novel provides a literary vehicle for cross-cultural readers to understand and enjoy Bengali culture and society in Calcutta.

When I completed reading the story, I couldn’t help but wonder if Sudha was going to return to Calcutta from her sojourn to America. The novel stood well on its own as a complete story; but there are several strands that I couldn’t help but wonder about how they would progress. I wanted to know what would happen to Singhji and whether Sudha would see him again and how she would feel if she did. I wanted to know what would happen to the trinity of women in the family, Gouri Ma, Aunt Nalini and Pishi. And, of course, most of all, I wanted to know what would happen to Ashok, the man Sudha loved but sacrificed not once but twice—for Anju, the sister of her heart.

Before I close this review, I must say one thing. I have the bad habit of reading multiple books simultaneously. When I started reading this book, I had already read about a hundred pages of “The Hungry Tide”, a novel by Amitav Ghosh. I found the story too enjoyable to put the book down and go back to Ghosh’s book. As much as I was enjoying Ghosh's book, too, it just had to wait.

After reading the novel, when I found out that Divakaruni wrote a sequel to the story later, “The Vine of Desire” in 2002, I couldn’t help but feel good. I immediately started looking forward to reading it. After one book, I have become a Divakaruni fan. She is a brilliant storyteller.

Note: I wrote this review on February 15, 2010 and shared with the author through her Facebook page.
Profile Image for That dorky lady.
191 reviews47 followers
November 3, 2020
Filled with family drama, sisters bonding moments and old kolkata tradition blended nicely in to a well crafted story. But I'm seriously annoyed about the cliffhanger ending! Its kind of brilliant of her (writer) to leave us hanging like that.because no matter how much I resent, I will keep thinking about what might've happened between sudha, anju and sunil next. I wonder if there's a film adoption of this! Such a Bollywood'ish book it is.
Profile Image for Hoora.
172 reviews29 followers
October 1, 2022
این کتاب داستان دو دختر هندی است که به روایت زندگی شان از کودکی تا نوجوانی و جوانی، مسائل و مشکلات زنان در هند، آداب و رسوم خرافاتی هند و... می پردازند.
با اینکه بخش بیشتر کتاب در هند می گذرد، اما داستان در آمریکا تمام می شود...
داستانی جذاب و پرکشش👌🏻
مهر 1401

پ.ن : این متنی که در توضیحات داستان کتاب نوشته شده، کلا غلط است.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews14 followers
December 29, 2014

For those who told me stories
and those to whom
I tell them now<,
my grandfather, Nibaran Chandra Ghosh
my mother, Tatini Banerjee
my three men, Murthy, Anand and Abhay


Opening quote:

It is only the story... that saves our progeny
from blundering like blind beggars into the
spikes of the cactus fence
Chinua Achebe 'Anthills of the Savannah'




They say in the old tales that the first night after a child is born, the Bidhata Purush comes down to earth himself to decide what its fortune is to be.

A puerile coming of age story set, for the most, in Calcutta.

Abandoned TBR Busting 2013
Profile Image for Salma  Mohaimeed .
254 reviews7 followers
February 5, 2018
أحبُّ الأدبَ الهندي ،وجاءت "شقيقة قلبي" توثقُ أواصرَ هذا الحب أكثر وأكثر . أفتتنُ بالأساطيرِ والخرافاتِ و"شقيقة قلبي" ملائ بأغربها وأحلاها.
" شقيقة قلبي " هي النسخة الهندية من "زهرة الثلج والمروحة السرية" تقول باختصار *إن الحب يبني العلاقات كالدم تمامًا* حبٌ ، سدهى وأنجو الأختين غير الشقيقتين ،السامي فوق كلّ الظروف والعقبات والنزعات الإنسانية الوضيعة.
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,794 reviews220 followers
October 24, 2018
Judging And Loving

"Sister of My Heart" is a novel about an upper-caste family in Calcutta, India, the Chaterjees, and about two women Sudha, a striking beauty and Anju, relatively plain but intelligent and curious. The two share the same birthday and grow up together. Indeed they are inseparable and prefer each others company to the exclusion of others. They grow up in a society of women (the "mothers") who try unsuccessfully to provide to them a life sheltered from modernity and its woes. However, Anju can't be kept from the bookstore her biological mother operates, Sudha can't be kept from the consequences of her beauty, and the two girls growing into adolescence can't be kept from the consequences of simply growing up.

The story is told in chapters with each chapter alternating between the voice of Anju and Sudha.
The fathers of the two girls disappeared and presumably died before their birth on a wild scheme to find a ruby mine in the jungles of India.

Through adolescence and into adulthood, the two become inseparable -- close through the many bad times and the few good times. Both Anju and Sudha have marriages arranged for them with the mothers concern for their well-being and the downward turn of their families fortunes and health.
Sudha stays in Calcutta with her engineer of a husband who is dominated by his mother. In marrying the mother's choice, Sudha forsakes Asoka, her seeming true love whom she met in a movie theater and who wants to marry her. Anju travels to the United States where she pursues, as agreed to by her husband, a college education.

The plotting of the book is implausible, as are its twists and turns. The book also is also full of coincidences which detract from the story and from any sense of characterization or purpose.
Partly because of the elaborate nature of the plot, the characterization of Sudha and Anju is, in my opinion, very weak. They can do no wrong, Sudha with her beauty, Anju with her intellect, and the two of them with their love for each other. They are products, the author would have us believe, of an Indian society in transition between traditionalism, which the book sees almost exclusively in terms of male domination, and modernity, again described almost exclusively in terms approaching American feminism.

In addition to its unconvincing story line and weak characterization, I didn't like this book because of its feminist stereotyping and its judgmental, hostile character to Indian society, (American society as well) and to men. For most of the book they are portrayed as bullies and bores, concerned only with sex and with using women as objects. Sudha and Anju, in turn, are presented as pure hearted, as perceptive, and as victims.

The portrait is not convincingly done and it is overly obvious. It made me angry with the book. There are nuances with the development of the plot but they are insufficient to override the general male-bashing and society-bashing.

I tried to think of an appropriate way to express what I found wanting in the book. Here it is, put simply. There is another Calcutta than that that we are given here and it is the Calcutta of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa is reputed to have said "If you judge people, you will have no time to love them." Her statement captures much of what I find troublesome in this novel. For all their love for each other and their thwarted ambitions, Sudha and Anju, and for the most part their novelistic creator, are judgmental and partial to others. They have no sympathy for India, for men, or for the promise of America either beyond the bounds of a strident feminism. They view people through the lenses of their own ideas exclusively and can't see others or sympathize with them as others see themselves or as Sudha and Anju themselves wish to be treated.

These are the reasons I can't recommend this novel. I have a hard time imagining a male reading the book with pleasure. It is a difficult read, ornately plotted, poorly characterized, and written, in my view, in a spirit of undue judgment and criticism.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Shreya Vaid.
184 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2017
Out of all the books that trickle down the Fictional area from Indian writers, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni always strikes out, thanks to her writing a mix of Indian and western stories, combining together to form magic. This weekend I picked Sister of My Heart to soothe my soul and my, it was magical! Two sisters, born out of family calamities, sharing a unique bond by beating distance, bad relatives, and society.

Sister of My Heart revolves around Anju and Sudha, born in the same household in Calcutta on the same day- the day when both their mothers are informed that both their husbands are killed in reckless quest for a cave full of rubies. The shock triggers pain in their wombs, a pain that seals Anju and Sudha's fate forever.

As the time goes by, relatives and society witness an unbreakable bond forming between the two, even if the mothers Gouri (Anju) and Nalini (Sudha) do not get along much. Whispers start pouring from walls into Sudha's heart, until one day she confronts her Pishi regarding that. From her Pishi, she understands that it was her Father who brought doom upon the family. Because of his tricks, Anju's father got killed. She is informed that her father was a no-good schemer who brought ruin on his cousin.

Once the secret is revealed, Sudha starts taking a different path from Anju. The dreams of finishing college and opening a successful cloth business takes a sideline. As they grow old, Anju adjusts to a life in California with a man who lusts after Sudha, and Sudha grapples with a mother-in-law who turns towards Goddess Shasti to fill Sudha's barren womb rather than finding a doctor who can help cure impotency of her son.

Even though differences start creeping in between their relationship, somehow fate always bonds them. Sacrifices are made, families are lost, but Anju and Sudha never give up on each other. Sudha realizes her love for Anju supersedes all, and her love does not come out of the necessity of guilt that her father was responsible for the doom of Anju's family. She is truly Sister of her heart. But is this love enough? What happens when Anju finds Sudha's dowry handkerchief lurking in Sunil's stuff? Guess you and I have to read the sequel; The Vine of Desire for that.

Divakaruni's books always have a special place in my bookshelf. I started reading her work with Palace of Illusions, and then gradually moved on to her other books. And one thing is always consistent, which I noticed in the Sister of My Heart as well. The intelligence and plot line to combine two worlds, the east and the west. And no matter how many times this theme re-appears in her books, it always leaves me mesmerized. I fall in love every time when I pick her book.

Another beautiful thing about the Sister of My Heart is the relationship between two sisters that has been portrayed. It's deep, it's magical If I have to say. Anju was kept on Nalini's womb so that the dying child can have energy from her to come out and face the world. The power behind this one scene shows how brilliant this book is. In the whole weekend that I spent at my mother's place, I could never part from this book. Though I had some issues with the length of the book, but it can be ignored.

And the climax, I was shocked! I can't say much about it because then this review will turn into a spoiler, but climax proves one thing right. Sometimes, things that we are looking for are right in front of us, but we just don't have the vision for it. All in all, make sure you pick up the Sister of My Heart. Pick it up for Divakaruni, and if not for her, pick it up to celebrate an enduring love between two sisters.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
844 reviews
March 26, 2014
This is the story of two cousins, Anju and Sudha, who grow up together as sisters in Calcutta, and the secrets, loves and life events that threaten to come between them. It is about the differing lives chosen by (or perhaps, more accurately, chosen for) these girls as they turn into women. It is about how they manage the potentially heart-breaking situations life throws at them. There were plenty of twists in the story - some more surprising than others.

Told by the two girls in alternating chapters, at first I liked Sudha's sweet personality best and felt Anju was a bit harsh. However, as the story developed, Sudha seemed to develop into an overly sentimental character for a little while, and I discovered elements of Anju that I see in myself, so I felt more sympathy for her. By the end, I felt I had a well-rounded view of both the women.

Reading this story made me very grateful to have been born in a country and time where women are more than chattels and have the right to be well-educated if they choose, to make decisions for themselves, to earn a living for themselves, to be married or not, with no shame attached to singleness. I wasn't sure about this one at first, but in the end, I really enjoyed it - 4★.
Profile Image for Lynn.
1,608 reviews48 followers
May 14, 2016
I'm not a great reader of chick-lit and without the exotic setting and key issues in the book, I doubt I would have picked this up.....which would have been a shame. I really loved the drama, romance and passion this book offered. It seems to be about a house full of fractious women all crazy about family position and reputation....I thought I'd throw it across the room. Nope, it was great....go figure.
Profile Image for Alena.
868 reviews220 followers
March 8, 2014
A very engaging story of the bonds that unite two Indian girls through childhood, marriage and motherhood. Secrets and misunderstandings keep things interesting and the author does a great job of evoking the setting at the start.

A very pleasant read.
Profile Image for catherine ♡.
1,174 reviews155 followers
June 3, 2018
I really wanted to like this book, and I was super excited to learn more about Indian culture, which I admittedly am extremely ignorant about. This did sort of add to my knowledge, but overall it was super difficult to connect with the story. I wasn't a huge fan of any of the characters, and I had to squint to see any character development. The plot itself was melodramatic and messy. The ending of the story did make up a bit for it because there was a reveal that shocked me (which is rare!) but overall, reading this book felt like slogging through mud.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,903 reviews20 followers
October 12, 2018
This is the second book that I've read by this author. I liked this one. The author does relationships well and that was such a strength here. The dialogue is also natural and authentic.

The story is about two girls raised together in the same house that their mothers share. It is more than a coming of age story as they grow up and find their way in their culture, their family roles and as friends. The story was engaging and so was the prose. It was quite gorgeous. There were some cliches too, but for the most part, I really enjoyed the writing. She also had great structure. So 4 stars.
Profile Image for Candle.
1,242 reviews731 followers
February 26, 2022
لأن الحياة تتفنن في تبديل الأدوار فتُحب من لا يُحبك، ويُحبك من لا تُحب… وفيها تجد نصف قلب يشبه حتى التمام نص قلبك، ونصفك على نصفه يكتمل به القلب .
الرواية مكتوبة للنساء لذلك كل ما فيها يهم النساء، بداية من علاقة الشقيقات - إن كان لنا الحق فعلًا باطلاق هذا المصطلح - نهاية بالعلاقة العائلية الممتدة، وتجارب الغربة والارتباط والتخلي عن الأحلام والحب أحيانًا في سبيل سعادة " نصف قلبنا" الذي يسكن في صدر من نُحب.
تبدأ الحكاية بهموم المراهقات، والقيود المتشددة التي تفرضها الأسرة، ثم المجتمع والحديث عن العادات والتقاليد، كل هذه كانت مدار رواية شقيقة قلبي للروائي الهندي شاتيرا بانرجي ديفاكاروني- لتمثل النافذة التي تطل بها على عادات الأسرة الهندية بمختلف أوضاعها المالية.
ما أزعجني بالرواية هو نهايتها بهذه الطريقة! خاصة وأن المؤلف تفرع كثيرأ في القصة مما كان يؤكد قدرته العالية على الابتكار … لا أدري لماذا توقف عن ذلك عندما كانت النهاية.
ترجمة أسماء المطيري لهذا العمل كانت رائعة.

ماذا بعد القراءة ؟
ولن تجد كل ما تتمنى.

#أبجدية_فرح 2/5 🌷📚
#رواية_شقيقة_قلبي #شقيقة_قلبي


Profile Image for Shannon.
197 reviews3 followers
May 1, 2012
This book would make a great movie on the Lifetime network (and as I refuse to watch the Lifetime network, that's not saying much). However, Divakaruni has a beautiful writing style. Her color and sound imagery are fantastic and the descriptions are beautiful. I always imagine India to be overstimulating to the senses and this book kind of fits that expectation. The first half is tightly organized and the everything seems tied together with excellent character and plot development. In the second half, Divakaruni seems to want to do too much and the purpose of the plot seems to be lost in all of the side developments. I do like how Sudha grabs her own freedom and fights for change, but the female power message is a little heavy handed to me, especially since almost all of the male characters are weak and despicable. Sunil is a player, Ramesh a momma's boy, Ashok whiny and needy. I'm not sure why Divakaruni even brings Ashok back except to reiterate her already redundant female empowerment theme. The only likable male character, Singhji, has been so thoroughly punished for his follies that he is scarred beyond recognition and cannot even directly communicate with his family. I'm sure Divakaruni is writing from a culture that is more male dominated, but her castigation of the male gender is a little too much for me. Of course, there are some shrewish females in there too. Divakaruni also establishes some nice symbols, like the Chatterjee house and Sudha's fairy tales. It's a decent read, just for the description and style, but don't expect too much from the plot.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,492 reviews9 followers
April 6, 2014
Just a beautifully well-written story about love in all its variations, forgiveness, and female survival and resilience in modern-day India. Anju and Sudha are born on the same day in the same house, and although they are distant cousins, they feel like twins and kindred spirits. Their love for each other is very special indeed, each repeatedly putting the needs of the other before her own. They grow up with dreams of what the future holds – Anju assumes they will go to college together, and Sudha surprisingly wants to go the traditional husband and children route. Adults intervene, as they do in this society; and their futures surprise them both, for good and for bad.

The last 40-50 pages are likely to bring a tear or two to your eyes and tug on your heartstrings. Looking forward to the sequel.
Profile Image for Neil.
Author 1 book1 follower
September 11, 2012
Polished Prose, Soap-Opera Story - The author evokes some vivid imagery, and the book moves along smoothly enough. But the plot is straight out of the sappiest soap opera or Bollywood film, and the feminist message is crudely formulated. Every man in the book is a liar, a fool, or a coward - and most are all three. The two main women make every serious life decision as if they were 13 year old girls in the throes of their own hormone-driven emotions. My sympathy for their often horrible situations wears somewhat thin by the end of the book.

Having said that, the author can turn a phrase, and she shines when writing the fairy tales that the main characters tell each other.
Profile Image for Priyanka.
224 reviews41 followers
May 17, 2023
3.5 would be the rating. The story is good with enough twists and turns but it keeps stretching endlessly in some places. It got exhausting with the characters going back and forth with the same issues. Towards the end I just wanted it to end some 100 pages sooner. A good read anyway.
Profile Image for Cassy.
195 reviews628 followers
March 23, 2011
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and I go way back. She helps out as an on-stage interviewer for a great Houston-based reading series, Inprint. I was there when she was torn to shreds by Orhan Pamuk. I witnessed her redemption when her interview with friend, Amy Tan went more smoothly. Chitra is always smiling and approachable. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston. I’ve heard her on the local NPR station. In short, she feels accessible to me.

Inprint flies in big name authors from all over the country and occasionally the world. So, when I heard Chitra was going to be featured (alongside Gish Jen) for the last event of the season, my first thought was “aww, they are doing her a favor” followed by “they must be trying to save money by getting someone local”. My cynical self didn’t consider that she might actually be a talented author. (I cannot believe I am admitting this!)

In fact, Chitra is quite a good storyteller. I would recommend this book to those who can handle a heavy dose of sentimentality. My eyes moistened with affection for the characters. My stomach grumbled as she described the delicious dishes and smells of India. My heart tightened at the sad turn of events. Looking back, some revelations were foreseeable. But I was so immersed in the story as I read that I did not bother to stop and cast predictions.

Chitra came to the event dressed in her sari as normal. In a refreshing departure from the blasé attitude of most authors, she was obviously excited to be there and sat on the edge of her chair. The interview asked how she started writing: Chitra was homesick during graduate school in the U.S. when she learned her grandfather had died back in India. In an effort to remember what he looked like, she started writing and continued as a closet writer for years.

I never fail to embarrass myself when I meet an author. As she was signing the book, I clutched my heart and crooned “I cannot believe you separated those two characters!” She flashed me an indulgent, but puzzled expression. “Well, you know she eventually goes back to India…” I gave her my blank, what-in-the-world face. It turns out there is a sequel, The Vine of Desire. Honestly, I was disappointed to learn this. I have read two other great, stand-alone novels this year that have unexpected sequels: These is My Words and Daughter of the Forest. What ever happened to leaving a good thing alone?
Profile Image for Sheerin Shahab.
181 reviews4 followers
July 12, 2021
The sins of the past cast long shadows. This proves true with a vengeance be in the case of the teenage cousins, Anju and Basudha, the scions of the prestigious Chatterjee family of Kolkata on the cusp of adulthood. They are cousins but their mutual love and understanding and the comfort they find in each other's company is the stuff of stories, similar to the ones narrated to them by their aunt, one of the three widows they live with in their sprawling house, their mothers being the others. Alas, something this pure and innocent can never last. Sudha learns of a family secret one day which changes this innocent love and affection forever.

Soon the feisty book lover Anju and the beautiful and gentle Sudha embark upon the journey of adulthood and have to face its inherent pitfalls. They face tests and trials in life as each of us is wont to do, both their lots sometimes similar, sometimes vastly different but they never flinch from this love that they have for each other, providing them strength and courage to face the tribulations thrown at them.

The story is not a thriller. There is no insistent curiosity towards turning the pages to divine what happens next. This is more a song, beautiful and lyrical and you flow along the rhythm. This is the magic the author weaves with her beautiful words. You seem under a spell of her words as we once were under the stories told by our grannies on a summer night under the stars. It's beautiful and enchanting.

The book shares charming glimpses of life in India in the background of a household mostly consisting of women with talks of pickles, and hair oiling and story telling sessions. It also throws a light on the pitfalls marriage can introduce to a young girl, subtly showing a mirror to the society.
The end does not give closure. It feels like a comma, instead of a full stop. The author leaves the reader yearning with curiosity regarding the future of both the women but maybe this only goes to establish the mastery of the author towards her craft.

Rating - 4.25 / 5
Profile Image for Neha.
281 reviews182 followers
October 28, 2014
I started reading this book at 9 in the night and finished it by 6 in the morning. When I started reading this I thought that it would be another Bengali writer who has moved from Calcutta to India or his parents moved much earlier and they are still seeking roots. But this turned out to be a surprise. The best part of it was that 90% of the novel is set in India and it actually takes you through the growing up phase of two girls who were like sisters and how their lives intertwined no matter how far they went. They had their greys & noone was right or wrong. But how the circumstances and their choices lead them to their destinies.

I didn't love the book for any characters but for the bond that the characters shared. Probably it intertwined with my own need for having a sister and bonding with her.

Their were other parts which interested me - about the fantasy stories of the girls' father's past and how it kept coming back to them. I loved the Calcutta portrayed by the writer and felt the urge to just visit it once but no chances till now.

I just wanted more of Chitra Banerjee's books and I have lapped up most of them. But the part 2 was not even half as good as the part 1. The characters were unjustified, unreasonable and lost all their charm by the time they reached United States of America. Somewhere they lost their souls and feelings and became boring. I suggest Chitra should stick her characters to Calcutta. All NRI story characters are the same - confused and soulless just trying to break away from their roots during their youth and running back to it when they start getting old or have had enough.
Profile Image for momruncraft.
391 reviews26 followers
March 9, 2011
Beautiful story of two cousins battling opposing forces while bonded by tragedy and torn apart by secrecy.

The girls, born in a time where individuality is stiffled by strict cultural tradition and social norms dictate much of one's being. American ideas of indpendence and education have creeped into conversations and linger as possiblity. Anju is in constant opposition of tradition. She longs for America and a college education. Sudha, born with exquisite beauty, her future remains unsure as she was not born into wealth or a good family name. Yet, despite their differences, they live for each other often putting the other's well being and happiness before her own.

Until a family secret is uncovered and their bond is no longer one of sisterhood or love, but one of duty and debt. Thrusted into arranged marriages, their lives are torn into two opposite directions: Anju to America and Sudha deeper into cultural traditions of servitude, to a point where she no longers resembles herself.

Distance grows and their lives continue to take them further and further apart. However, tragedy finds each woman once more and their friendship faces the ultimate test.

The life stories of the five women showcased in this novel are inspiring, moving, and heart breaking. The amount of oppression, hurt, and sacrifice endured to "secure" one's family name and social standing is difficult to witness. Yet, while it is often the women sacrificing in the name of familial content and success, we learn that men also suffer in ways that are different, yet all to familiar.

Awesome book.
Profile Image for Chana.
1,583 reviews144 followers
February 3, 2011
A romantic, coming-of-age, family saga in Calcutta, India. Two girls growing up in the same household, bonded so strongly even at birth that they grow up sharing inner hearts, as the title says "sister of my heart". The girls are both fatherless as their fathers passed away in the same sad and mysterious accident right before the girls were born. The girls are raised by the "3 mothers" and eventually marry, which is complex in itself.
One of the things that I really liked about this book is the pleasure one can take in being in this big old house in Calcutta growing up with the girls, all the Indian customs, foods, ceremonies. The sense of being under the influence of a writer who knew India as her home is strong. I enjoyed all that very much.
This is a pretty good book, a little over-dramatic sometimes, but it works. I loved the surprise at the end, it was just right. Two things I could find fault with: one character commits a folly so unbelievable at the end, something that didn't fit his personality as it had been explained to us; the other thing is that the story just ends, we don't know what happens, it doesn't feel like an ending. It feels more like we were involved in a really good movie then the power went out and now we never know what happens
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Alaska).
1,286 reviews421 followers
October 20, 2016
I picked this up at the library book sale last year. I had heard good things about it and for 50 cents, why not? Well, let me just say it was worth all of that 50 cents, but not a penny more. The prose is good enough - at least it didn't bore me to tears and having me throw it against the wall. I found the characterizations thin and there was not one I cared very much about. Of the two main characters, one is a Little Miss Perfect, the other is Miss Spoiled Brat. The story is just OK, but much of it is predictable. I think it is the best of it is the setting. However, I think of those I have read set in India, I would recommend any of the others over this one. It's really hard to write a good review of a book about which I just feel ... meh. It kept me reading, so I'll give it 3 stars, but it sits at the bottom of that barrel.
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