Sabitri was taken aback when she receives a call from Bela. A desperate Bela called her mother for her daughter, Tara wants to quit college. Thus begins a partly intriguing tale of these three women from three generations. Sabitri hurries to find words to convince Tara. A few failed attempts and she finds herself writing a version of her story that she would not have imagined herself muttering to herself in her wildest dreams. Slowly, the impact of her actions and decisions start reflecting in Bela’s life and once you have heard Tara, you will be convinced that life has been a vicious circle for the family.
The swift movement of the perspectives is slightly confusing in the beginning but once the ball sets rolling and you have a hang of the plot, it becomes a nice comforting read. Perhaps the kinds where you are engaged in the storyline and the words just flow. Mind you, the impact of the words isn’t as fierce as Divakaruni’s Palace of Illusions. The voice is a wee bit meek and disappointed. To be honest, that is not my expectations from her. The descriptive sagas of Bengali culture is not a problem.
True, she is well versed but a link seems missing and after two days of letting my mind wander, I successfully identified later that it is neither of the reasons stated above. It is perhaps the raw, honest words of these characters that makes you hold on to it. Perhaps that was the charm and the intention with which the characters were crafted but it definitely took a lot more of sinking in than expected to get used to that voice. The meek voice has a different kind of strength, the kinds that we are not used to accepting readily.
Above all, as always there is a certain nostalgia associated with Divakaruni’s thoughts. Be it the smooth and shiny silk sarees Sabitri was gifted or the carvings of the poles of the four poster bed, or the chipping walls, the picture is as clear as you thought it would be. I can spot the slight off-white tinge to widowed Sabitri’s sarees and her glistening grey hair made into a not so charismatic bun.
Talking of “Before we Visit the Goddess” as a book, it has its own set of highs and lows. The confusion with perspectives in the beginning causes a bit of coaxing to not let go. The start is promising but the promise dwindles as the shifts in narratives occur. You hold on and you are rewarded with a bittersweet aftertaste. And I tell you, the bittersweet taste lingers quite a bit. Bam! Out of the blue the realization hits you and the bittersweet taste has hit a different spot on your palette.
Final Verdict: Here is the twist in the tale, as a reader, it might be difficult for some reason to give it that time. Particularly so for people who are fast readers. The lows take away a tiny-winy star from my rating of the book.