My enjoyment of this just goes to show, one should be careful moralizing about negative reviewing. When it's warranted, hostile reviewing makes for a very entertaining tamasha. The highlight is the following (a slow build-up):
Where "Desirable Daughters" gracefully limned the hidden sympathies and dissonances within a family, "The Tree Bride" strains to draw tangential connections between Tara and an assortment of historical figures she never knew. There are long, stilted descriptions of life in India under the Raj, and even longer, more stilted descriptions of the imperial sins committed by the British.
The author's aim, presumably, is to show the ripple effect that history can have on individuals, to show the patterns of love and betrayal and redemption that are repeated generation to generation. The point Ms. Mukherjee wants to make reverses the points she's made in earlier novels. This time she suggests that the freedom to begin a new life, offered by America, will always be circumscribed by familial imperatives, by religious and cultural tropes and by more primeval, subterranean forces that her characters like to think of as fate.
None of these grand ambitions are fulfilled in this swollen, ungainly novel. Ms. Mukherjee's efforts to widen her canvas from the personal to the political, from the private to the historical, result in her most maladroit novel yet.
Plot has never been one of Ms. Mukherjee's stronger gifts, and the story line of this novel is particularly preposterous.
Stilted! Strained! Swollen! Ungainly! Inconsistent! Her most maladroit yet! Completely preposterous! Well, it probably won't too long before we see this one in the 'remaindered' bin with the other eight Mukherjee novels.
By the way, books by Indian authors with references to: marriage, arranged marriages, brides, henna, masala, mangos, curry, and chutney in the title should be immediately and permanently banned. (References to Hindu Gods might be ok, but only if a hefty tax is imposed.)