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Before We Visit the Goddess

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A beautiful, powerful new novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices about three generations of mothers and daughters who must discover their greatest source of strength in one another—a masterful, brilliant tale of a family both united and torn apart by ambition and love.

The daughter of a poor baker in rural Bengal, India, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but her family’s situation means college is an impossible dream. Then an influential woman from Kolkata takes Sabitri under her wing, but her generosity soon proves dangerous after the girl makes a single, unforgivable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees abroad with her political refugee lover—but the America she finds is vastly different from the country she’d imagined. As the marriage crumbles and Bela is forced to forge her own path, she unwittingly imprints her own child, Tara, with indelible lessons about freedom, heartbreak, and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.

In her latest novel, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, and the different kinds of love that bind us across generations. Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston, Texas—an extraordinary journey told through a sparkling symphony of voices.

208 pages, Hardcover

First published April 13, 2016

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About the author

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

61 books5,187 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
1,162 (18%)
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3,013 (46%)
3 stars
1,887 (29%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 980 reviews
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
453 reviews660 followers
June 12, 2017
Rating 3.5

Before We Visit the Goddess tells the story of three generations of women in a family. The story moves from India to California to Texas. It moves back and forth in time and between the characters. Sabitri, lives in India and gets a devastating call from her daughter Bela. Bela's daughter Tara wants to quit college. Sabitri begins to write to her granddaughter, Tara, who she has never met, explaining why she should stay in college. So begins the tale of these three women.

I don't recall when I added this one to my to-read list but I happened to see the audio and grabbed it. I enjoyed this tale of these women. I love hearing about Indian culture and when Indian food is also discussed, it's a bonus. Not only do you hear the stories of these three women, but for each woman, you hear from a male perspective in their lives. Through each of these stories, you learn more about each woman and what made them what they are and what gave them strength.

While I enjoyed this one, something just seemed to be missing for me (hence a 3.5). Initially, I had to really concentrate as the story jumped around quite a bit back and forth in time and around characters. Once I got the rhythm it was easy to listen to. I listened to this one via audio and there were multiple narrators. Now this one is just a peeve of mine, but when the book is told from a young person, the narrator seems to talk *very* fast, as was the case here. Guess I finally found the rhythm and I began to relax with this story, and I found this change quite jarring. I am glad that I read this and I look forward to reading more from this author.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,002 reviews36k followers
December 19, 2016
The Central theme is about an Indian family and three generations of women.
It's written in different time lines. This novel 'almost' feels like several short stories are being told which are linked together - but mostly it felt like that to me because the overall story isn't told in chronological order. It kept me on my toes and curious as to how things would tie up at the end....yet in the end it felt like stories I've read before- or stories I've heard before from my Indian friends here in Silicon Valley.

All the women want what they want! They don't like being controlled - nor does anyone particularly like doing the controlling.... yet they each can't seem to help themselves Part of the culture? Perhaps.
Each of the women are stubborn and independent --- making for complicated relationships. Everyone is 'right' and seems to know what is best for everyone 'else'.
Yet as the story unfolds we begin to see a little transformation:
Age changes women-
Experience changes women-
America changes women-
Men change women

Overall I thought this book was fair. The men in the book were weak......and the daughter of this story comes out looking like a spoiled brat ---but in defense of her she had a mother and a grandmother 'both' feeding her their words of advice... plus she suffered the most mistreatment.
I would have felt smoother in this family.... and the expectations might have driven me to rebel too. ( just sayin).

As with all stories about an Indian family - culture - heritage- there is mention of foods. This story is no different---although there is a higher emphasis on sweets.

Fair - enjoyable enough -under 300 pages - but I felt it was missing something.

3.7 stars
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,285 reviews2,205 followers
May 3, 2016
Reading this book made me think that I really should read more of this author's books. I wanted to read this because of how much her book One Amazing Thing impressed me . This book in a way reminds me of it with its portrayal of the relationships , the connections between characters of different generations, even though they are very different stories .

This is a short but meaningful novel of mothers and daughters ,of unexpected friendships , of cultural heritage . This is the story of Sabitri , Bela and Tara is told in different times in their lives , in different places and sometimes from the points of view of other people in their lives , and it is not told in chronological order . At first I though this shifting in time would bother me but it didn't because in each and every change we learn more about them.

Sabitri traded away her dreams for a comfortable life after losing who she thought was the man she loved. Bela , her daughter, leaves her mother for America and a man she loves , and her daughter Tara struggles to find out who she is . Placing blame where it may not belong , mistakes and misjudgments of people along the way seemed to plague all of these women . Each of them living lives not exactly as they had hoped for at first , but yet discovering who the are by discovering things about each other and themselves.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,133 reviews8,140 followers
March 11, 2021
This book was just what I needed. It's a beautiful story about mothers and daughters told through interconnected short stories. It jumps back and forth in time as well, and through this narrative structure you get to see how events are interpreted differently by the characters and how they play a part in shaping their lives. The writing style was wonderful; it was simple and very readable but carried a lot of emotion. I think the title story was one of my favorites. Much like Jhumpa Lahiri or Anne Tyler, Divakaruni is super good at capturing the minute characteristics that make up a person, and this means her characters are very well-rounded. Though I do wish the book was longer because I liked it so much, I think she did a great job at giving you just enough to make you think without explaining everything. I'll definitely be checking out more of her books—and thankfully she has a lot!
Profile Image for Anne Bogel.
Author 7 books54.6k followers
December 14, 2021
One of the most recommended books on the What Should I Read Next podcast, this novel-in-stories tracks three generations of Indian women and their fraught relationships. The title comes from a chance encounter one of these women has with a stranger, which is fitting because my favorite parts of the story deal with the small moments that change the course of a person's life, and the unlikely friendships that do the same. Chatting with the author for the MMD Book Club in Summer 2016 only heightened my appreciation for the story. Listen to One Great Book Volume IV Book 3 to hear more about this wonderful, beautiful, and sad book.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
October 15, 2017
This novel is made up of stories of the lives of three generations of women in one family. They are not organized chronologically, in fact one story starts from one decade and moves backwards in time. I really enjoyed the ways Divakaruni plays with time in that way, so you don't know whether to blame the mother or daughter for a conflict they are having.

Some see this as an immigration story, as one of the women moves to the USA from India and raises her daughter there. And this occurs, for sure, but distance between women in a family is more of an excuse for why people aren't communicating, not the reason itself. I felt like the many ways the different women keep secrets, hide mistakes and real feelings, and try to find their paths felt true and could be true about many family groups. I think I'm trying to say that they felt universal.

I found myself feeling most empathetic to the secondary characters. One very memorable spot, David tells Kenneth that living with him is like "slowly sinking into mud," and my stomach dropped alongside his. There is a doctor character in the story with the same title as the book who I really liked, and a lot of important stuff happens in that story that effects everything that comes afterwards.
Profile Image for Aditi.
920 reviews1,332 followers
February 13, 2017
“As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.”

----Kristin Hannah

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, the best selling, award-winning author, has penned a terrific and heart rending grandmother-mother-daughter relationship drama in her new book, Before We Visit the Goddess that revolves around three woman bound together by blood yet separated by generation gaps. The author has narrated a longing tale of mistakes, misunderstandings spanning through three generations from Indian to USA reflecting how one mistake of one ambitious woman, who wanted to make a name for her family, cost her only daughter's choices that finally impacted her granddaughter's course of life.


A beautiful powerful new novel from the bestselling award-winning author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices about three generations of mothers and daughters who must discover their greatest source of strength in one another a masterful brilliant tale of a family both united and torn apart by ambition and love.

The daughter of a poor baker in rural Bengal India Sabitri yearns to get an education but her family s situation means college is an impossible dream. Then an influential woman from Kolkata takes Sabitri under her wing but her generosity soon proves dangerous after the girl makes a single unforgivable misstep. Years later Sabitri's own daughter Bela haunted by her mother s choices flees abroad with her political refugee lover but the America she finds is vastly different from the country she d imagined. As the marriage crumbles and Bela is forced to forge her own path she unwittingly imprints her own child Tara with indelible lessons about freedom heartbreak and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.

In her latest novel Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the complex relation-ships between mothers and daughters and the different kinds of love that bind us across generations. Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal India to the streets of Houston Texas an extraordinary journey told through a sparkling symphony of voices.

Sabitri, a young, ambitious yet very poor woman wants to graduate but the financial condition of her sweets-making family speaks otherwise. Luckily, a benevolent yet haughty woman takes pity on such a dedicated young lady and provides her with the financial support to continue her education. But a silly misstep in her new life makes Sabitri pay for it heavily, eventually affecting her daughter, Bela's life, who escapes the wretched life in India along with her love of her life to USA, where the cultural barrier and the changes in her newly wedded husband depresses her and makes her regret her choice of not finishing education. That yet once again effects her daughter, Tara, who follows blindly into the footsteps of her careless mother. Helpless Bela can only seek advice from her mother whom she has never met after leaving USA, and through a letter, and some fragments of memories, the author has portrayed three woman's struggle to find their stand in the society through various socio-political barriers.

The author's writing style is exquisite and eloquent and has laced the story line with so many deep, heart felt emotions that will move the readers for the characters' plight. The narrative is somewhat intellectual, thoughtful and truly authentic and it is told in various person narratives yet from the point of view of the three main characters, so that will let the readers contemplate with their honest voices. The pacing of the book is moderate yet flows calmly midst of deep philosophy about life and the weak bonds of a mother-daughter relationship.

The author characterized the three central characters with honesty and depth that will help the readers to comprehend with the characters' hard choices. The demeanor of Sabitri is inspiring but gradually her mistake haunts her for the rest of her lives and even though she commits a silly error, yet her misery and regret for it would make the readers sympathize for her. Bela and Tara both are somehow crafted as reckless woman, who living in a foreign land, get out of touch from their original roots, yet somehow their plight and fall touch the readers' souls. There are some characters, like Bela's husband could have been developed with much depth, hence the last few chapters might sound very boring or meaningless for the readers.

The author has vividly arrested the importance of blood relationship and how that strong bond of relationship weakened over the ages and near the end, the future of the relationship was hanging by a loose thread. This shifting dynamic is depicted with the raw edges of some painful sentiments that is bound to make the readers feel the sting of it, thus making the story extremely evocative. Although the backdrops aren't that well painted through this story and fails to evoke a sense of the location into the readers' hearts.

In a nutshell, this captivating story is poignant, entertaining and filled with lots of emotions.

Verdict: A satisfying and an enticing read!
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,689 reviews451 followers
November 25, 2017
"Good daughters are fortunate lamps, brightening the family's name. Wicked daughters are firebrands, blackening the family name." This Indian proverb is repeated often in this story about three generations of mothers and daughters. All three women are hoping for love, a connection with their children, and a meaningful life.

The book starts in the home of Sabitri in West Bengal, India. Her daughter, Bela, follows the man she loves to the United States and they have a rebellious daughter, Tara. Tara is threatening to drop out of college, prompting Sabitri to write her a letter with details of her own life that she has kept secret from everyone. The novel is composed of nine interconnecting short stories, moving back and forth in time and between cultures. The theme of success--an idea which can vary with the times, the culture, and the woman--runs through the stories. Success could be an education, running a business, or a life as a wife and mother. Expectations are very different in mid-century India when compared to modern America. The relationships between the mothers and daughters are complicated and difficult. Several of the characters were involved in culinary businesses so there were tantalizing descriptions of Indian food throughout the book. I enjoyed reading about these three women, especially Sabitri who achieved success in a very different way than she originally dreamed.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,602 reviews2,040 followers
March 17, 2016
This one started as a 4-possibly-5-stars but gradually fell little by little. Ultimately I think the author and I just aren't quite a good fit for each other. I loved the first chapter and the story of Sabitri's life. I loved the concept behind the novel of finding what success means as a woman. But I always found that Divakaruni pushed one step too far. Characters I really enjoyed would do just ONE more thing and become someone I didn't like much anymore. There were just a few extra voices in the narrative that I didn't need or enjoy.

There were moments I really loved, chapters I got lost in, but others that fell flat. I was disappointed in it, but never really connected with Bela or Tara the way I did with Sabitri. And for me, when I'm not really gelling with the characters it can be hard for me to connect with the whole book.

I've never read Divakaruni before, and I'm still interested in reading her other books and seeing if this was just one of those times where it didn't quite work for me. I can certainly imagine her writing the kind of book I would love. So I'll be putting her on my to-read list to try again.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,336 followers
April 17, 2016
Before We Visit the Goddess started off "meh" for me, but at some point around the middle I realized that I had been completely pulled in by story. The book focuses on three generations of women -- Sabitri the grandmother who spends her whole life in India, Bela her daughter who immigrated to the US in her late teens, and Tara who is born and raised in the US. Initially, this felt like a decent but unoriginal novel about immigration and generational divides. But as I got into it, it turned into a much richer reading experience because of the characters Divakaruni creates and the unique way she tells their story. I ended up really liking especially Sabitri and Bela -- strong smart women whose lives are complicated -- but not determined -- by their dependence on men in their early years. Also the narrative does not follow a chronological path. Each chapter focuses on one or two characters over different periods of time, and almost forms a self-contained story that is linked to the other chapters. From time to time, the same events are seen anew from a different character's point of few -- adding richness and complexity to the narrative. Divakaruni is a talented storyteller. I will certainly look for some of her other books. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Vijayalakshmi.
Author 6 books24 followers
April 6, 2016
" What is it about children? An old need twisted in Sabitri's chest. Protect, protect."

A friend recently told me about an American colleague's reaction to her mother's six month long visit. "I can't believe you can live with your mother for six months!" was the colleague's comment. Obviously, my friend and I were as bewildered by this reaction as the colleague was by the (subjectively speaking) long stay. It led me to start thinking about cultural differences in parent-child interactions. Indians, traditionally have much closer relationships with their parents. Not that these relationships are without conflict, but we learn to forgive and forget. The "dependence" that Americans perceive as existing in such a relationship is a actually a mutually beneficial support system. Things however are changing,and I couldn't help wondering if in second/third generation Indian-American families a loosening of bonds would be a natural development.

It was then that I came across Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Before We Visit The Goddess.

Stories about father-son or mother-daughter relationships are tricky. On the one hand, they can turn into a cliche --a rehash of conflicts and conversations that are déjà vu. On the other hand, when told with sensitivity and a willingness to see the characters as individuals that have lives beyond the relationship, such stories become something that the reader can identify with intimately without the feeling of :been there, done that."

Sabitri, in late 1950's Kolkata dreams of an education but is constrained by her poverty. When a rich benefactor offers her an opportunity to study, she grabs at it, but loses it just as suddenly. Later, she works hard to give her daughter Bela every advantage to achieve something for herself. But Bela, in the grip of a young love, elopes to the United States with her lover who is a political refugee. Life and love however are unpredictable games, and Bela's disappointments become wounds to her daughter Tara. Tara, disillusioned, rebellious and out of touch with her roots, is more like her mother and grandmother than she realizes. Chitra Bennerjee Divakaruni treats these complex lives with the delicate touch of a master painter, creating images of each character that are vivid and brilliant. These three women are truly unforgettable, and startlingly recognizable.

Within this landscape of parent-child relationships, we see glimpses of some other relationships, like that of the spunky Mrs Mehta with her son and daughter-in-law; of Dr Venkatachalapathi, whose close mindedness cost him his daughter; and that of Kenneth who rejected by his parents, finds a friend and mother figure in Bela.

The novel however goes beyond just this exploration of relationships to an exploration of identities. The way in which a woman creates a space and an environment for herself to flourish in, the process of identity building, the experimentation with a sense of self versus a sense of tradition are are beautifully dealt with.

The author plays with time in this novel, so that sometimes we see the consequences of an action or a decision before we know what the action/decision is. This inversion of cause and effect makes for a compelling story-telling technique. There are just enough gaps in the stories, just enough that is left untold, to keep the reader coming back to them long after the last page has been read. In this, the novel masquerades as a series of connected short stories. While this may be a turn-off for some readers, I personally found it captivating.

As in most of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novels, food has a place of honour in Before We Visit The Goddess as well. It is almost a living, breathing person, the way it exists in the lives of the characters, and it is impossible to read the book without craving desperately for an engorged roshogolla or a comforting mishti-doi.

The best storytellers always keep you coming back. They have their unique signatures, a unique voice, that enchants the reader and draws them back to listen to one story, then the next and then the one after that. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one such masterful storysmith. I am done with reading Before We Visit The Goddess for now, but I keep thinking about the characters, and I know that a re-reading is in store for the future.

FTC disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher for this honest review.

Author Bio: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/C...
Profile Image for Lata.
3,589 reviews191 followers
December 9, 2016
A story of three generations of women, Sabitri, her daughter Bela, and her granddaughter Tara.
The story moves back and forth in time and there are multiple PoVs, so you get a chance to find out how each woman is actually feeling about a particular incident/moment in her life.
This was a pretty quick read, and not the first I've read by this author. I enjoyed this more than two other books I've read by this author, though I found the ending abrupt.
Profile Image for Viju.
328 reviews79 followers
May 11, 2016
There are books. There are journeys. There are books that are journeys. After a long time, I was invested in multiple characters from the same book and I felt I was a part of their journey from start to finish. I hadn’t felt that way for multiple characters in a book in a long time. There may be multiple reasons for the likability of all of these characters, each of which are from a different generation and still face the same form of troubles that the other generation faced.

The book begins with a soft staggered introduction to the three characters that stay with you through the rest of the book: Sabitri, Bela and Tara. Having read Divakaruni’s Palace of Illusions in the past, I knew I was in for a decent read in terms of story-telling and the writing. While Palace of Illusions, which was based on Mahabharatha, did take significant creative license in the story telling, it was a book that made me look Divakaruni’s works up. Before We Visit The Goddess has the same type of strong characterisation and beautiful writing which makes you dwell into the book deeper and deeper.

Sabitri, her daughter Bela and Bela’s daughter Tara are three women who have faced multiple occurrences in their life including separation of a loved one or a significant other, gotten back on track with their lives after their life goes haywire post the separation. The book does not insult the intelligence of the reader by tying a few obvious things in the narrative. It instead follows a very non-linear narrative with beautifully titled sections and goes on with the occurrences with one of the protagonists dedicated to that particular section.

You have appearances of a few other characters who shape the lives of the three women and the story-telling is a so real that you realise the effect that the characters have had on the change in the lives of the protagonists only after a few chapters. As with life, change is shown gradually here and there are no overnight successes. This staying real is the book’s biggest strength and you see the same thing in the entire book.

Of the three characters, you do find that the multi-layered nature of the characters is evident in all three characters Sabitri, Bela and Tara. However, the layering begins to reveal itself slowly and not all at once. This helps each of them maintain a slight mysterious nature and ensure that there is still something more that the characters have to offer into the premise through the book.

Before We Visit The Goddess is a wonderfully written journey of three strong women and is sure to put a smile on your face with its likability and its ability to make you relate to the premise.

(Interestingly, the same concept of having the narrative from the points of views of three generations of women in a family was seen in Andaleeb Wajid’s More Than Just Biriyani.)
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,645 reviews405 followers
March 6, 2023
Before we visit, the goddess spans the generation of 3 women in an Indian family. Told from different times, from the grandmother Sabitri, to the daughter Bela, to the granddaughter Tara's eyes, with a bit of viewpoint from characters within their lives.

This was a well-written book, but it was hard to remind myself of traditional Indian values. Each of these women painfully sacrifices her desires of the heart for the sake of others around her. Under the guise of trying to be an honorable family member and uphold familial values, each of these women is tearing the family further and further apart. I wanted to shout through the pages to tell these women that by allowing men to trample over them, they were hurting their daughters.

Timeline skipping was done to create mystery and intimacy for each character, such as peeling away the petals of a flower to reach the center. Like a vast, she loves me, not game with their own daughters. It was unnerving to see these women want to rage against what they viewed as the negativity of their own mother's roles in their life and not make the same mistakes which instead lead to echoes of the same path trodden by the woman before her. I enjoyed the Bela the least, but she also witnessed the most abuse of femininity of them all.

Overall it was a very well-written introspect of women of Indian heritage as they grow from more traditional to Westernized.

3.5-4 stars.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,733 reviews14.1k followers
April 23, 2016
3.5 Three generations of women, mothers and daughters, relationships fraught with misunderstandings and conflicts.

I think I understood Sabitri the most, identified with her and came to really admire all she accomplished. Her daughter Bela, I felt was very selfish, couldn't understand how she did what she did. Did warm up to her by the end of the book, but never really identified with her and hated the way she treated her mother. Tara, Belas daughter I was very conflicted about until the very end. Still this is a well written book, an inside look at the struggles many mothers and daughters experience. Loved the ending and felt the characters had a large amount of depth. The skipping around in time periods worked and didn't, at times it was frustrating. Still, I enjoy this author and the stories she tells. Interesting and heartfelt.

Arc from publisher.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,901 reviews20 followers
December 20, 2016
This was yet another book challenge read. I haven't read this author before. Her writing was very neat and clean. The story, while it was definitely well structured, contained a lot of repetition. This story covered three generations of women (and then some) and contained a few different POVs. I think having all the different POVs was the biggest problem for me. It made this not only repetitive, but also jumpy.

Overall, I liked this. The author described the relationship dynamics very well....the love, the expectations, the disappointments, the hopes and the dreams were well done. So 3 stars.

Profile Image for Kim.
699 reviews
September 16, 2016
This was really good! I recommend this one to you all.
Profile Image for Pankaj Giri.
Author 3 books217 followers
May 16, 2018
Early last year, destiny showered me with a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had some work in Bangalore, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, one of the favorite writers (I had loved her novel ‘Sister of My Heart’) was also coming to Bangalore to attend the Bangalore Times Lit Fest. I got a chance to attend her session, interact with her and Murthy, her husband, and even get a signed copy of her latest novel ‘Before We Visit The Goddess’. I will cherish it forever. Not everyday do you get to meet an internationally acclaimed, award-winning author.

Since I had to finish my novel ‘The Fragile Thread of Hope’, get it published, and promote it, last year passed in the blink of an eye. A month ago, I finally got a chance to begin the book. After a few pages, as expected, I was hooked. I hadn’t thought that Chitra ma’am could improve upon her language, which was already delectably brilliant in ‘Sister of My Heart’, but I was amazed. Her language is even more refined in this book, her experience having poured layers of class over her already exquisite talent. I don’t remember how many times I re-read more than half of the sentences in the book to appreciate their poetic beauty and try to learn and imbibe some of her marvelous qualities in my writing.

Just like Sachin Tendulkar, who used to delight cricket fans with his range of shots in all formats of the game, Chitra ma’am shows her repertoire by dabbling in almost every POV. Third person limited, first person, second person, she has implemented all with exquisite perfection. There is absolutely no head-hopping, an error which debut writers are almost always guilty of. The dialogues are impeccable and hard-hitting too, and I loved the strong, emotional encounters between the characters at several places. And obviously the editing is flawless—but that is expected from a Chitra Divakaruni book.

The characters are beautifully developed, every scene adding layers over them, painting them with gray shades, garnishing them using snippets from the past. I felt for each of them and could relate to them. I did feel emotional many times too, but somehow—the same thing happened with ma’am’s previous book—the story didn’t push me enough to make me cry.

However, that is just a minor flaw in a brilliantly written book. I loved it from beginning to end, and I’m sure the characters will stay with me for a long time. The ending is wonderfully done too except for one question that remains unanswered and which is nagging me, urging me to shoot a mail to ma’am and ask her. However, that is totally the author’s choice and I respect it.

Finally, I would like to say that this book is a must-read for all, especially for new writers as there is so much to learn from Chitra ma’am.

Despite it not being able to push me down the lake of tears, I am not qualified enough to give this masterpiece anything less than 5 stars.
Profile Image for Candice.
1,411 reviews
May 2, 2016
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has been one of my favorite authors for a while now. This is one of her best books. I was absorbed in the characters and their situations from the first page. I loved the structure of the book which did some skipping around, but not in a confusing way. Three generations of Indian women and the secrets they keep from each other make for a book that is difficult to put down, a book that will stay with me for a long time.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,464 reviews560 followers
November 23, 2016
I really enjoyed the first half of this novel about Sabriti and her daughter and grandaughter- the novel was a pure pleasure to curl up with. Then the book just devolved into fractured, nonsensical episodes. I doubt that I would have finished it if it wasn't so short.
Profile Image for lisa.
1,531 reviews
April 23, 2016
Never have I ever ... been so exasperated by a novel.

I feel like I've started to read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's books out of habit, and out of hope that one of them will be as amazing as The Palace of Illusions, one of my all time favorite books. This latest one felt like half a novel -- extremely annoying, as it was good, and I would have loved to read the complete story. The story covers three generations of women (Savitri, Bela, and Tara) and the way their lives intersect, and affect each other, even without them being fully aware of it. The story kind of goes forward in time, but a lot of the missing pieces are told in flashback. This is not an unusual storytelling device, but it is not done well here. Big gaps are left out of the story until further down the line, but the reveal isn't done in a way that makes you sit up and realize that a major piece of the story has clicked into place. Many times I was left confused as to how the events mentioned matched up in time. (Is it shocking that Sanjay confronts Tara at the thrift store, or is that after her accident? Oh wait, it's before. Well then, is this confrontation a big deal or not? Does it affect her relationship with Bela? Probably not? No big deal then. Why was it part of the story at all?)

However, the most frustrating thing of all was that I really, really wanted to read about these characters, but the story was over before I could really get into them. This novel could have been twice as long and I would have read it happily. I had so many questions, namely about Savitri's mother, Durga, and Bela's relationship to Sanjay. Also, what was Bela's life like after her encounter with the magician? It's sort of hinted at, but I wanted details. Also, I loved Mrs Mehta, the feisty, lonely Indian widow that Tara cares for. Why was she never mentioned again? If I were editing this book I would ask Ms. Divakaruni to write the novel again, and to please not rush this time.

Also, this tiny nitpick keeps niggling at me: why were cell phones mentioned so many times in parts of the story that took place in 1998 to 2000? Granted, I was in high school then, and high school kids were not entitled to a phone the way they are now, but I feel like very few people had them then, and there was no such thing as voice mail. I can remember that my uncle had one because he was a doctor, but I don't recall being able to leave messages for him on the phone. There was absolutely no such thing as having only a cell phone in 1998 -- if you had a cell, you had a landline because cell phones were considered somewhat unnecessary luxury items. And one of the characters sends a text message in 2000, which I feel was very early to be texting. I remember beginning to text in 2003, because that's what my friends in California were starting to do, but it was so new and unusual that a lot of people didn't bother to respond; they just called me. It just strikes me as unreal that a character in Texas in 2000 has a cell phone, and that his older, undocumented immigrant neighbor, who has no money, also has a cell phone, and that this Texan character texts this older neighbor. As I write this I am even more aware of how ludicrous that sounds. Another example of the poor editing of this novel.

I give it two stars only because I truly loved the characters, and the bones of the story, and I wish they had been given a better book. Otherwise this is a one star read.
Profile Image for Preethi.
805 reviews122 followers
August 24, 2016
Let me begin by saying this - I love this author. I love her writing and her online persona. So, I knew I was gonna like this book before I even started.

Vivid portrayal of female characters, good storyline spanning generations and a few moments that will tug on your heartstrings are this book's strength. (The thought of Sabitri never again seeing her daughter and granddaughter is hurting my stomach and am going to take sometime to get okay with this. )

The men in this book are all way too weak to my liking and they needn't have been this way and this is the only thing I quite didn't like in the plot.
Profile Image for Amy.
206 reviews2 followers
April 12, 2016
I love the premise of this book & the characters are well developed but I felt that I needed more details. I felt like too much was left to my imagination. Too many years are skipped throughout the story & the transitioning between character's point of view was disjointed & jarring at times.
Each character is multi layered & there is growth on the part of each by the end but I never really felt like I fully understood them or the relationships they had with each other. It felt rushed.
The prose is beautifully written & the dialogue between characters is believable but it almost feels as if this book is a series of short stories dropped into a novel. I think it would work better in the format of a short story collection.
I have no doubt that Divakaruni can write, this book just felt a bit unfinished for me.
I'd like to read other books by this author because the writing is beautiful; I just wasn't a fan of the structure of this book.

Thank you Edelweiss, NetGalley, and Simon & Schuster for providing me with an advanced copy to read & review in exchange for an honest review.
309 reviews6 followers
February 26, 2016
This is the first book I have read by this author. Before we Visit the Goddess is a family story of three generations of Indian women, Sabithri, her daughter Bela and Bela's daughter Tara. Sabithri never left India, she had a successful store Durka's Sweets, named after her mother. Bela leaves for America following her lover, who becomes her husband. This family is by no means the happily ever after. Relationships, marriages don't always work out. The story is told from the 1950's to 2020 in no chronological order always from someone else's point of view. Through the pages the reader finds out how much decisions made early in life will affect others, even future generations. I found the back and forth in time frames and different point of views a little disjointed, but it didn't take away from enjoying the novel. I wish I had known what some of the foods were that are described in the novel. I have no experience at all with Indian food. Maybe a glossary or explanation at the end might be helpful for others not familiar with Indian culture. I do recommend this book and will read other books by this author.
Thank you NetGalley, Simon and Schuster and the author, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni for giving me a chance to preview this book.
Profile Image for Malvika.
83 reviews55 followers
February 7, 2017
There are emotions that no one except Bengali writers can say and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni proves that in Before We Visit the Goddess. Thank you, Chitra.
Profile Image for Mady Lena.
1,239 reviews115 followers
August 3, 2019
Zaczęło się dobrze. Fabuła wydawała się być ciekawa, a bohaterowie dobrze wykreowani. Jednak gdzieś tam w środku autorka namieszała do tego stopnia, że książka było po prostu chaotyczna i czytać już się jej nie chciało. Były momenty na tyle nudne, że po prostu przelecialam je wzrokiem.

Był potencjał w tej książce, ale gorzej z wykonaniem.
Profile Image for Padmaja.
157 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2018
You know you loved reading a book when the first thoughts you have are about the book after waking up!
A beautiful story of three generations, Sabitri, Bela and Tara. The story starts in rural Bengal and ends in Texas.
Sabitri is a daughter of a poor sweet maker in Bengal, for whom education is a privilege. A rich woman from the village sponsors her education but one mistake makes everything go haywire.
Bela, Sabitri's daughter elopes with her lover to the US. Hers is a story of immense whirlwinds.
Tara, Bela's daughter is born and raised in the US. Tara will learn about life and love in the hard way. I loved how dysfunctional Tara's character was. A confused first generation immigrant in the US, her story is told very effortlessly and we could connect with her easily.
You cannot help but love the three women in the book. I loved Sabitri's character the most because of her strong willed nature. A beautiful story highlighting a mother daughter relationship. The book feels like reading many short stories within the main story. I loved the writing and the way of story telling. I admit it started off as mediocre for me, but I am glad I kept reading. The story became more intense as it progressed and it was hard to put this book down. What I loved most about it that how brilliantly the story was told through various POV's. I love Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's works and this one made me fall head over heels with her books once again.
It combines love, loneliness, separation, betrayal and dreams! At first I thought it was just another story about Indian immigrants and first generation Indian Americans, but no, it is much more than that. Please read this!
Profile Image for A H.
266 reviews85 followers
February 2, 2017
I like family drama. Heck, I love family drama. Family stories, following the lives of different generations of families, their little nuances, the tiny details and stories - these are probably my favorite type of books to read. And I especially, especially love when such family stories are set in India. When such stories are embedded into the India of the 90's or maybe of an earlier time, and reading about the cultures and customs, habits and norms followed by the people during that time fascinates me.

So it's no wonder that Divakaruni's Before We Visit the Goddess enchanted me. It may not be the most beautiful or the most intelligent story in the world, but she masterfully manages to spin a story about three women, three generations and their personal struggles and hardships, joys and happiness. Even though it is a mere 200 page novel, it still raptures and manages to weave a simple story in such a compelling way.

The story is about Sabitri, Bela and Tara - grandmother, mother and daughter. The story starts with Sabitri and her poor life, how she manages to beat the odds and build a successful life for herself; Bela, whose life is spoiled by one blazing need for revenge and Tara, whose suffers because of the mistakes made by her elders.

I think out of all the stories, Sabitri's story was the most inspirational and heart-breaking, though I enjoyed Bela and Tara's story too. The three stories intervene and mix with each other, parts of each revealed throughout the book. The stories may not be suspenseful or shocking, but they are still good stories. They are believable and realistic.

Banerjee's writing is beautiful, it is so simple and poignant, and touches you within. I'm so glad I discovered her books this year. She somehow writes simple things in such a compelling form, and it's difficult not to be awed. Her characters are so real. They make mistakes, they regret things they do, they're basically every single human being on earth.

Overall, I loved the book. It took me a while to read it, but I still love it a lot and I'm glad I decided to buy it. I cannot wait to read more books by her; Banerjee is officially one of my favorite authors now :)

Profile Image for Eustacia Tan.
Author 15 books254 followers
May 11, 2016
This was such a beautiful book. I wasn't sure what to expect from it, but it's just... Beautiful. Just beautiful and rather sad.

Before We Visit the Goddess is an intergenerational story about Sabitri, her daughter Bela and her granddaughter Tara. It skips around in time and point of view, but by the end, comes to form one story.

All three women have made mistakes, and their mistakes have cost them dearly. Bela ran away from America and never went back, Tara dropped out of college and didn't contact her mother for a decade. All three have estranged relationships, and not all of the relationships were healed.

My favourite character was definitely Sabitri, possibly because hers was the first story I read, but probably because she seemed like a strong woman. Not to mention that she didn't deserve what happened to her. I think out of all three characters, she was the most blameless. And because I think filial piety is incredibly important, I find what Bela did horrible. Yes, the same thing happened to Bela, but it seems a bit like payback for what she did to her mother, so I didn't feel as bad for her.

In the second last chapter, just as I was thinking that Sabitri was going to be the only character I liked, I found my villain.

I'm not going to spoil it, but it totally made me feel immense sympathy for Bela. As for Tara, I don't know if it's the first person narration (all those "I"s in there) for her chapters, but I never quite shook the feeling that she was a selfish character. Or rather, I never felt her troubles as deeply as I did Sabitri and Bela.

I really wish this book was longer. There are so many gaps, and so many untold stories that I wanted to know about. I totally recommend this book to anyone looking for something on family, love and loss.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

This review was first posted at Inside the mind of a Bibliophile
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