The Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is the story of 18 year old Korobi (named after the oleander flower), orphaned at birth and brought up by her maternal grandparents, Bimal and Sarojini Roy in a traditional Bengali household at 26 Tarak Prasad Roy Road. They adore her and overindulge in her. She has never seen her parents and she has an unfinished love letter from her mother to her father- the only souvenir left from them- found in a poetry book during a vacation from boarding school and it has been with her ever since.
After school, she moves to Kolkata and joins college. On her friend Mimi’s birthday party, she meets Rajat Bose, the son of Mr and Mrs Bose who own many art galleries, including Barua & Bose and they fall in love and get engaged. The night before her engagement, her mother comes in her dreams and wants to tell her something which she is unable to understand and wants to ask her grandmother about it.
Her grandfather’s sudden death on the engagement night opens a Pandora’s Box and she wants to find the truth about her parents. She wants to search for her father, who may be alive. She does not know anything about him, only that his name is Rob and he may be somewhere on the East Coast. Rajat, though, unwilling at first, supports her on the condition that she would try for a month and comeback, whatever the outcome. Rajat arranges for her to stay with the Mitras, their manager and New York. Mr Desai, the detective, and his nephew, Vic, help in her search in the US.
Though the book has been written as Korobi’s diary, in first person, but there are parts in the story, narrated in third person, which maintains the flow and direction of the story. She has developed the supporting characters very well that like her understanding grandmother, Sarojini; Rajat’s entrepreneur mother, Joyoshree; Rajat’s sister, Piya; their driver, Asaf Ali; Bahadur and the cook at the Roy household. The relationships between the characters have been wonderfully described. I especially loved the understanding between Rajat and Korobi’s grandmother.
Will Korobi find her father? If so, what will she do, will she stay there or come back? If she comes back, will she marry Rajat? Will he stay faithful to her while his ex-girlfriend Sonia, is trying to lure him?
The book becomes an emotional thriller later and is a beautifully written page turner.
Book Source: Bought
Publisher: Penguin/ Viking