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Review: Independence by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Title: Independence: Three Sisters, Their Deep Bond, and the Struggle for India's Freedom
Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult fiction (historical)
Pages: 288 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map)India, Pakistan

Summary Set during the partition of British India in 1947, a time when neighbor was pitted against neighbor and families were torn apart, award-winning author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel brings to life the sweeping story of three sisters caught up in events beyond their control, their unbreakable bond, and their incredible struggle against powerful odds.

India, 1947.

In a rural village in Bengal live three sisters, daughters of a well-respected doctor.

Priya: intelligent and idealistic, resolved to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a doctor, though society frowns on it.

Deepa: the beauty, determined to make a marriage that will bring her family joy and status.

Jamini: devout, sharp-eyed, and a talented quiltmaker, with deeper passions than she reveals.

Theirs is a home of love and safety, a refuge from the violent events taking shape in the nation. Then their father is killed during a riot, and even their neighbors turn against them, bringing the events of their country closer to home.

As Priya determinedly pursues her career goal, Deepa falls deeply in love with a Muslim, causing her to break with her family. And Jamini attempts to hold her family together, even as she secretly longs for her sister’s fiancè.

When the partition of India is officially decided, a drastic—and dangerous—change is in the air. India is now for Hindus, Pakistan for Muslims. The sisters find themselves separated from one another, each on different paths. They fear for what will happen to not just themselves, but each other.

Review: I didn't realize until I finished this book that I had previously read a novel by this author (her last name was slightly different on the two books, see my review of One Amazing Thing). I had a tough time getting into this novel, there was something about the way it is written that didn't sit easily with me at first. But, once I got the chance to sit down and read solidy for an hour, I was into the flow and caring about the characters.

I liked Priya best, probably because she was the most outspoken, the most driven by her own ambitions, and often chose what was right for her not based on a man. Deepa was my second favorite, living a very different life from the rest of her family all for love of a man outside her culture. It wasn't that I didn't like Jamini, I just felt she was a bit too negative. She is the one who stayed home to care for their mother, who sacrificed more than she should have. All admirable qualities, don't get me wrong.

The author did a wonderful job of weaving the history of India's fight for independence and the separation into two states with the lives of the many characters. I like that the history was seamless and not forced, the events and people casually part of the story rather than feeling like a history book. Banerjee Divakaruni also showed well how the fight for independence wrenched families and freinds apart both physically and emotionally, how religion and culture often overshadow friendship and a shared history.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Literary Escapes--India and Pakistan
  • Popsugar--includes a love triangle

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