By Stefanie Davis
“She holds fast to the last thing,” Sarojini said. “You are a daughter of independence, the country’s future. Women like you are the ones for whom we fought and died, the ones who will transform India. You must carry the flag forward. You may fall from time to time. We all did. What is important is to get up again.” (Divakaruni, p. 269)
“Independence” by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is set during the partition of British India. It is a tale of sisterhood, love and the fight for India’s independence. The story follows the wife and three children of a well-respected doctor in the village of Raniupur: Bina, the mother; Priya, the intelligent one; Deepa, the beauty; and Jamini, the devoted disabled daughter. Their family is torn apart when their father is killed during one of many riots. Priya is determined to become a doctor and continue her father’s work serving the poor and vulnerable patients at his clinic. However, her family expects her to get married. She has fallen in love with and becomes engaged to a Hindu man named Amit. As she later learns, her sister Jamini also has feelings for him. Priya’s fiancée breaks things off when she decides to leave him and head to America to pursue her medical career. Their sister, Deepa, falls in love with a Muslim man, causing her family to cut ties with her. Jamini is left home alone to care for their mother and attempt to keep the family together.
This story has strong female characters, great detail of the historical and political upheaval of the time and some Bengali terms, as well as rituals and traditions. For similar reads, check out “Moth” by Melody Razak, “The Parted Earth” by Anjali Enjeti, “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini and “Salt Houses by Hala Alyan.
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