An expressive mix of past and present, Bharati Mukherjee’s The Tree Bride is a sequel to the novel, The Desirable Daughters, where Tara Chatterjee tries to identify what is right and what is wrong in Indian culture for a daughter. A woman who has broken ties with her country and traditions, but still remains tied to it.
The Tree Bride opens with Tara Chatterjee, who is now reconciled with her previously divorced husband Bish. A bombing at Tara’s house has left Bish handicapped, who is now trying to collect pieces of his life and working on his next big thing. Tara, who is pregnant is now immersed in writing a novel based on her ancestor, Tara Lata.
Tara Lata, also known as the Tree Bride was married to a tree when her husband died on the day of her wedding. To shut up the people who accused Tara Lata of being ominous, Tara Lata’s father marries her off to a tree. Tara grew up to be one of the famous freedom fighters from Kolkata, who gave up her life savings for Gandhi’s Dandi March and her life for the freedom India.
Tara Chatterjee has a pretty good amount of data on Tara Lata, thanks to her 2-3 visits at the Mistigunj. But there’s something which seems disconnect to her. She is rescued by her gynecologist, Victoria Khanna, whose roots run deep into Mistigunj. Victoria’s grandfather was Vertie Treadwell, a district commissioner in the Indian Civil Service who served in East Bengal until India gained independence from Britain. Victoria, who has kept her grandfather’s papers and letters, gives them to Tara, which turns out to be a gold mine for her book. They form the backbone of this amazing story, which shows the effects of colonialism and it’s aftermath.
The Tree Bride is not just the story of Tara Lata, it’s a story that helps connect Tara Chatterjee to her old life when she was married to Bish. In piecing together her ancestor’s transformation from a docile Bengali Brahmin girl-child into a passionate and patriotic organizer of resistance against the British Raj, Tara Chatterjee discovers and lays claim to unacknowledged elements in her ‘American’ identity. The story of the Tree Bride is central, but the drama surrounding Tara, a divorced woman trying to get back with her husband, moves the novel back and forth through time and across continents.
The Tree Bride is a book that will keep you hooked till the time you reach the part where the author is trying to figure out Vertie Treadwell’s connection to her. That’s the area where the novel is a little slow with too many details, and you may want to take a break. But apart from that, the story is pretty engaging one! I didn’t feel like keeping the book down and love it more than the prequel, The Desirable Daughters where I only got to see a hint of the Tree Bride. The story is smooth and author’s narration is detailed, leaving the reader’s queries satisfied.
Being a detailed chronicle, the Tree Bride demands to be read slowly. But it is a book which you should definitely devour into!