three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
13-Nov-Dec-2004
user_rating: 
0

A-QueenDreamsThings have been better for Rakhi. Her Berkeley café is under siege from the chain coffee house that’s set up shop across the street. She worries whether her ex-husband can responsibly handle shared custody of their daughter. Plus, she’s got a mother whose gift for reading people’s dreams has left her emotionally unavailable to her own family. When Mrs. Gupta suddenly passes away, Rakhi discovers her mother’s dream journals. Her father aids her in translating them, and also helps her to understand what Mrs. Gupta sacrificed to come to America—all for her daughter’s sake. Queen of Dreams is a story of cross-cultural and emotional misunderstandings.
Doubleday. 340 pages. $21.95. ISBN: 0385506821

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Divakaruni continues her signature theme of examining women caught between cultures, struggling to establish their identity and integrity in a world fractured by conflicting values. … Queen of Dreams is a riveting story, eloquently written." Karen Campbell

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"… [a] magical novel. … In lyrical, poetic prose, Divakaruni manages to be hopeful without offering false reassurances, showing how identity—both individual and communal—is equally shaped by loss and creation." Malena Watrous

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The search for identity and a sense of emotional completion are not confined to small corners of the world. It is a dilemma that all readers can understand." Robin Vidimos

San Diego Union-Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"Divakaruni structures the novel in alternating chapters ... followed by more traditional narrative chapters recounting Rakhi’s life. The strategy works well for the most part, though occasionally the method can seem contrived, with description straining too hard to support the narrative." Paula Friedman

Santa Rosa Press Demo 2.5 of 5 Stars
"I have rarely if ever enjoyed reading about or listening to other people’s dreams, whether in real life or in fiction. Remembering and coming to terms with my own dreams has been difficult enough." Jonah Raskin

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"The ultimate frustration of Queen of Dreams is that its connections have come too conveniently: packages, unexplained strangers, journals with answers, as if life were but a dream." Leslie Pietrzyk

Critical Summary

The word magical gets thrown around a little too casually in review circles, but when it comes to Divakaruni’s new novel, the description seems apt. More cynical reviewers feel the plot is contrived and the characters hollow. The book’s boosters praise Divakaruni’s descriptive skills, shifting point of view, and acute presentation of Indian-American culture. The mother’s eponymous dreams, presented in separate chapters, add complexity to the narrative structure and drop a heavy dose of mysticism to this tale of immigrant assimilation. It is this same mysticism that determines the success of the fictional illusion: for some it is awe-inspiring; others just see smoke and mirrors.