Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
January 18, 2000

About the Author

Chitra Divakaruni is an award-winning writer, activist and teacher. She writes for adults and children.

Her work has been published in over 100 magazines and anthologies and translated into 30 languages, including Dutch, Hebrew, Bengali, Hungarian, Turkish, Hindi and Japanese. Her work has been made into films, plays and dance dramas, and performed as operas. Her awards include an American Book Award, a PEN Josephine Miles award, a Premio Scanno, and a Light of India award. In 2015 The Economic Times included her in their List of 20 Most Influential Global Indian Women. She is the McDavid professor of Creative Writing in the internationally acclaimed Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston and lives in Houston with her husband Murthy.

Divakaruni has been an activist in the fields of education and domestic violence and has been closely associated with the following nonprofits: Pratham, which educates underprivileged children in India, and Daya and Maitri, which assist survivors of domestic violence in starting life anew.
Other Works By Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Mistress of Spices
Black Candle: Poems about Women from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
Leaving Yuba City
The Palace of Illusions
Before We Visit the Goddess
The Forest of Enchantments
The Last Queen

Sister of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

“That’s how it is sometimes when we plunge into the depths of our lives. No one can accompany us, not even those who would give up their hearts for our happiness.” 

This quote from the book, Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, perfectly sums up the predominant theme of a novel that revolves around the life of two inseparable girls, Anju and Sudha. A journey from their childhood to adulthood, the novel traces the lives of two sisters set in an influential family set in Calcutta. 

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The Plot

Book 1 of the Sister of My Heart is called Princess in the Palace of Snakes. It traces the lives of the two cousins till their wedding day. The day Sudha and Anju are born, 12 hours apart, is also the fateful day when the news of the sudden death of their fathers reaches the household. The girls are, thus brought up with Pishi, Gouri (Anju’s mother) and Nalini (Sudha’s mother) as matriarchs. 

Both the girls, however inseparable, are quite different from each other. Sudha is calm and beautiful, always immersed in her sweet world of fairy tales, and Anju is more practical and fierce. A hitherto hidden family secret creates a strain on their relationship. Book 1 ends with Sudha and Anju getting married on the same day, and thus starts the most painful journey of their bond. 

Book 2 of Sister of My Heart is called The Queen of Swords and it shows Sudha and Anju busy in their lives, trapped in the webs of marital bliss and patriarchy. This is when the sisters discover that they are pregnant at the same time. However, both are destined to fall into a dark pitch, from which they have to rescue one another. The novel ends with a happy picture of the sisters united, but on the hind side, uncertainties of the future continue to loom over them like a thick rain cloud.

There are two poignant themes knitting the novel together.

Fairy Tales

“…the bird began to carry them to a new life in a new land. We’ll be happy ever after, the queen wanted to whisper to her daughter as they flew, but she knew that was not true. Life never is that way. And so instead she held her daughter in silence, heart to heart, and as they travelled each heart drew on the other’s strength, so that when they reached their destination they would be ready.”

Sister of My Heart shows an interweaving of different Bengali myths, stories of Gods and countless fairy tales. It is these fairy tales in which Sudha has always believed and which one day go ahead to disillusion her. Ultimately, Sudha goes on to develop her very own fairy tale by finally taking the pen of her life in her own hands. Anju, who has always scorned at the idea of fairy tales, is as much the creator of her own story. 


“They say in the old tales that when a man and a woman exchange looks the way we did, their spirits mingle. Their gaze is a rope of gold binding each to the other. Even if they never meet again, they carry a little of the other with them always. They can never forget, and they can never be wholly happy again.”

Coming out from her perfect world of stories, Sudha learns that marriage isn’t always as rosy as shown in fairy tales. Anju, however, weaves her own story as a fairy tale, and this reversal of life and story is a poignant touch by Divakurni.

Ultimately, both meet with displeasure in their marriages and soon learn that it is nothing but a social contract. A guarantee of a woman’s reputation, a guarantee of wealth and social standing in the superficial setting of India.

Favourite Quote

“That’s how it is sometimes when we plunge into the depths of our lives. No one can accompany us, not even those who would give up their hearts for our happiness.” 

Final Verdict: Sister of my Love is a novel seeped with emotion and one can’t read it without laughing at Anju’s jokes or weeping at Sudha’s sorrows. Weaved beautifully into the complex web of India’s superficial society, with its problems of patriarchy and hypocrisy, the novel captures the growth of these two women with the utmost care and precision. A must-read!

Ilona Dam

Ilona Dam

A writer by profession, I’m an avid reader and and an insane foodie! However, come what may, my books will always remain my first and only true love.

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