Sarojini is about to scold her, but, leaning over the rail toward the row of oleanders that Anu had loved, Korobi looks so like her dead mother that the words die in Sarojini’s throat. Not her face or fair skin-in those Korobi resembles Sarojini herself, but that posture, that troublesome yearning toward the world, that radiant smile as she turns toward Sarojini.
An orphaned girl raised by her devout grandparents in a house that is as old as her lineage and a rich, party boy whose parents worked their way into riches and the high society, what do they have in common? Love. Love is the underlying theme throughout the book and from the first page, it sets out to explore and interpret the multi-faceted definitions of Love. It deciphers how love dictates relationships, invokes questionable impulses and lies waiting in the most unexpected of places. Let me not lead you astray into thinking that this is a love story. Far from it, it is about the subtle loves that exist in each of our lives; the love of a mother, the love in an aged marriage, the love that lies in waiting in the shadows of our oblivion.
The book itself starts off slow but a couple of chapters into, it had a capturing effect on me. I was taken in by Korobi, the main character, and her straightforward nature. Her ability to take on each obstacle in life with a head-on attitude inspired me. I found myself relating to her and, at times, to many of the other characters, something that Chitra Divakaruni consistently manages to do with all of her books.
Oleander Girl is a touching story of a young girl coming of age. It warns of the toxicity of secrets in families. The circumstantial misgivings that occur in the relationships are a reminder of the importance of honesty. It illuminates the fine line between duty and devotion. While taking place during socially turbulent times in India and the US, the book is a reminder of the necessity of inner peace in our lives and even more important, forgiveness.
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