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

A-TreeBrideIn Desirable Daughters (2002), the first in a planned trilogy, Tara Chatterjee’s life was in shambles after a firebomb destroyed her San Francisco home and she divorced her successful arranged-marriage husband, Bish. In Tree Bride, Tara, now pregnant, is trying to reconcile with Bish. She’s also still researching the life of her ancestral namesake, an East Bengali Hindu who, according to legend, married a tree at the age of five after her child groom died. Later a freedom fighter against the British, she died in prison. With this backdrop, Tara forms a relationship with an ob-gyn of British heritage and begins to understand how convergence triumphs over coincidence.
Hyperion. 293 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 1401300588

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"… an elegantly written novel that travels between centuries, continents, and cultures, and links people, past, and present, sometimes in far from obvious ways. … A key theme in The Tree Bride is Tara’s attempt to reconcile the part of her tied to her Indian heritage with her life as an assimilated American." Joanne Skerrett

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"As Charles Dickens did with Victorian England, Mukherjee unspools her story with a beguiling use of humor, detail and color. She grasps the complex points of history and whittles them into a compelling, if sometimes confusing, story; reading carefully is a must here." Mary Houlihan

Minneapolis Star-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"With its dizzying array of times, places and subplots, The Tree Bride occasionally recalls the work of magical realists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges. … Like [Tara], we need to piece this story together. It is a bold move but it pays off." John Freeman

Milwaukee Jrnl-Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The narrative thread is sometimes lost for the sake of historical discourse. … The Tree Bride is a stunningly intricate genealogical historical novel that deconstructs the past to reconstruct the present and future." Robert Allen Papinchak

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Bharati Mukherjee is masterful in her deception. … As a reader, one wants more of how Tara Lata changed from a shy child bride to the steely Mother Courage of the independence movement." Sandip Roy

Critical Summary

Born to a wealthy Calcutta family, Mukherjee lived in Britain as a child and is now a professor at U.C. Berkeley. Her life of migration and assimilation informs her work, but critics agree that grander themes play out in Tree Bride—how to accept assimilation, forge identity, and connect past and present. Critics call Tree Bride dazzling, enchanting, and rich. Mukherjee moves across time, space, and culture, weaving seemingly disparate events in meaningful ways. Those same critics also describe Tree Bride as esoteric, elusive, and confusing, particularly when historical detail engulfs the narrative threads. Fortunately, Mukherjee focuses the novel by grounding Tara’s personal relationships. While Tree Bride is not for the restless reader, it is "a worthy commitment rewarded by a deeply satisfying and eloquently told story" (Boston Globe).