Although Chitra Divakaruni's poetry has won praise and awards for many years, it is her "luminous, exquisitely crafted prose" (Ms.) that is quickly making her one of the brightest rising stars in the changing face of American literature. Arranged Marriage, her first collection of stories, spent five weeks on the San Francisco Chronicle bestseller list and garnered critical acclaim that would have been extraordinary for even a more established author.For the young girls and women brought to life in these stories, the possibility of change, of starting anew, is both as terrifying and filled with promise as the ocean that separates them from their homes in India. From the story of a young bride whose fairy-tale vision of California is shattered when her husband is murdered and she must face the future on her own, to a proud middle-aged divorced woman determined to succeed in San Francisco, Divakaruni's award-winning poetry fuses here with prose for the first time to create eleven devastating portraits of women on the verge of an unforgettable transformation.
In this collection of emotionally fraught short stories, poet Divakaruni (Black Candle) relates the travails of Indian women trying to adapt to the often alienating culture of middle-class America. Her mostly young characters-students or brides-are negotiating the schism between Indian values and new possibilities here. In ``Clothes,'' Mita moves from a tiny Indian village to be with her husband, who runs a 7-Eleven in California; after he is murdered in a holdup, Mita questions her nave vision of America. In ``The Word Love,'' an Indian graduate student living in Berkeley with a man named Rex agonizes over whether and how to tell her mother back in India about the relationship. The narrator of ``Affair'' suspects her husband of sleeping with a close friend, realizing eventually that, whether or not her suspicions are correct, her marriage to an old-fashioned, judgmental and bossy man is troubled. Particularly poignant is ``Meeting Mrinal,'' in which Asha, recently deserted by her husband and coping with an adolescent son, lies to a childhood friend, now a successful, independent businesswoman, insisting that her life is fine. In transparently simple language, Divakaruni places her characters at the volatile confluence of two conflicting pressures: the obligation to please traditional husbands and families, and the desire to live modern, independent lives. First serial to Good Housekeeping. (July)