Tara Chatterjee, divorced from her wealthy entrepreneur husband is living in San Francisco with a hippie carpenter. She is one of three sisters from a wealthy Brahmin family from East Bengal.
The plot swings back and forth from the small village in East Bengal where her ancestors live and San Francisco. There's a strong contrast between Tara, who is very assimilated, and her two older sisters, both of whom have held on to their Indian traditions. Yet it is Tara who visits East Bengal in an attempt to learn about her ancestors - in particular a distant great or great-great aunt who was married to a tree and played a major role in the struggle for Indian independence.
In the San Francisco part of the story, Tara is approached by a young man who says he is the illegitimate son of her
oldest sister, who now lives in New Jersey. Her sister is extremely traditional - wears saris, eats only Indian food, etc. Tara gradually learns that her sister did, in fact, have an illegitimate child, but the question is whether the young man who has approached her is that son or a con man?
Though the suspense builds as we learn more and more about the young man, the mystery is secondary. The main focus is the pull of two cultures. Tara and her teenage son exemplify the Indian trying to meld with American culture. Her sisters - one in New Jersey and one in Bombay - hold onto traditional culture in the face of pressures to assimilate.
This report prepared by David Gordon