Cover image for The tree bride
The tree bride
Mukherjee, Bharati.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Theia, [2004]

Physical Description:
293 pages; 25 cm
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National Book Critics Circle Award-winner Bharati Mukherjee has long been known not only for her elegant, evocative prose but also for her characters--influenced by ancient customs and traditions but also very much rooted in modern times. In The Tree Bride, the narrator, Tara Chatterjee (whom readers will remember from Desirable Daughters), picks up the story of an East Bengali ancestor. According to legend, at the age of five Tara Lata married a tree and eventually emerged as a nationalist freedom fighter. In piecing together her ancestor's transformation from a docile Bengali Brahmin girl-child into an impassioned organizer of resistance against the British Raj, the contemporary narrator discovers and lays claim to unacknowledged elements in her 'American' identity. Although the story of the Tree Bride is central, the drama surrounding the narrator, a divorced woman trying to get back with her husband, moves the novel back and forth through time and across continents.

Author Notes

Bharati Mukherjee was born in Calcutta, India on July 27, 1940. She received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Calcutta in 1959 and a master's degree from the University of Baroda in 1961. After sending six stories to the University of Iowa, she was accepted into the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She received an M.F.A. in 1963 and a doctorate in comparative literature in 1969 from the University of Iowa.

She married fellow student Clark Blaise, a Canadian author, in 1963. They moved to Montreal in 1966, where she taught English at McGill University. They moved back to the United States in 1980. After teaching creative writing at Columbia University, New York University, and Queens College, she taught postcolonial and world literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

She wrote numerous books during her lifetime including The Tiger's Daughter, Wife, Darkness, Jasmine, The Holder of the World, Desirable Daughters, The Tree Bride, and Miss New India. In 1988, The Middleman and Other Stories won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. She died from complications of rheumatoid arthritis and takotsubo cardiomyopathy, a stress-induced heart condition, on January 28, 2017 at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Tara Lata became known as the Tree Bride because after her child groom died, her quick-thinking Hindu father married her to a tree to spare her the misery of lifelong widowhood. Mukherjee introduced the Tree Bride in her last spellbinding novel, Desirable Daughters (2002), along with Tara Lata's descendent, Tara Chatterjee, who left Calcutta for San Francisco, where her husband became a world-famous cyber-communications magnate. Tara was researching the Tree Bride's life when a bomb blast threw her own life into turmoil. Now, as Mukherjee picks up the pieces, as it were, Tara, scarred and pregnant, seeks an Indian woman doctor, but, fooled by a name, ends up with a white woman whose British family history also connects her to the Tree Bride. So begins the unfurling of an endlessly intriguing web of unforeseen connections and coincidences as smart and resilient Tara continues her revelatory investigation, and Mukherjee imagines the warped psychology of colonial India with both pathos and wicked humor. Improvising brilliantly and with wry intent on the satirical wit of Dickens and the political acumen of Orwell--and making gorgeously metaphorical, and metaphysical, use of communications technologies--Mukherjee takes up the story of the revered Tree Bride, who becomes a freedom fighter in India's struggle for independence. Mukherjee is a virtuoso in the crafting of shrewd, hilarious, suspenseful, and significant cross-cultural dramas. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

India, past and present, its inhabitants and expatriates, has always formed the framework of Mukherjee's literary world. In this vibrant novel, a sequel to Desirable Daughters and her best work to date, the author has fused history, mysticism, treachery and enduring love in a suspenseful story about the lingering effects of past secrets. Tara Chatterjee, the protagonist of the earlier novel, again narrates. The tale begins as her San Francisco house is firebombed by a man obsessed with killing her, and trails back to her legendary great-great-aunt and namesake, Tara Lata, who was born in 1874 and, at five, married to a tree because her fianc? died. Later, Tara Lata bravely conspired to win Bengal's independence from England. As the narrator gradually discovers why her namesake died in prison, she uncovers much evidence of the British rulers' contempt for the Indians they claimed they were "civilizing"; their cruelty, bigotry and duplicity cut into the narrative like a bloody knife. The plot itself is convoluted in a suspenseful way: the drama begun by Tara Lata's wedding resonates in miraculous interactions over the generations. As Tara Chatterjee's husband, a technological genius, has always told her, there are no coincidences in the universe. Over the course of this story, a dreadful 18th-century sea voyage spawns one man's redemption and another's hatred; honor and courage are met by betrayal; and loyalty to one's family and tradition prove to be the fuel of 20th-century love. The narrative brims with more action and vitality than Mukherjee's previous novels while retaining her elegant and incisive style. It's a good bet that this book will attract wide interest and leave readers eagerly awaiting the third volume in the trilogy. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This second installment in a trilogy continues the story of Mukherjee's critically acclaimed Desirable Daughters, where Tara Bhattacharjee, a Brahmin Indian from a traditional family leading a nontraditional life in San Francisco, is violently beckoned back to family history and tradition by a sister's long-kept secret. Here, cosmic forces from the first book disguise themselves as coincidence and converge to drive Tara on a search for a distant ancestor--the legendary Tree Bride, who at five was given to a tree in marriage after her betrothed died of a snake bite and who fought for India's independence from Britain. Through karma and dharma, Tara begins to bridge the gap between her Indian and American selves. Dry in spots, compelling in others, packed with Indo-British history, and touching on issues of caste and race, this novel is expertly written in often dreamy and silky prose. Recommended for larger public libraries, especially those that own Desirable Daughters.--Jyna Scheeren, Troy P.L., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.