Published in January 2019 in India, the novel that Chitra Divakaruni has been working on for a decade. One of the world’s greatest epics, The Ramayana, is literally a disastrous love story. In this excellent retelling, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni places Sita at the heart of the storybook: this is Sita’s outlook and version.
The Forest of Enchantments is a pretty very human story of some of the other women in the epic, often relegated and misunderstood to the margins: Mandodari, Kaikeyi, Surpanakha. A powerful comment on betrayal, duty, honor, and infidelity, it is also about women’s grapple to hold on to autonomy in an ocean that privileges men, as Chitra converts an ancient story into a contemporary, gripping battle of wills. Sita is abducted by Ravan, rescued by Ram, and then promptly abandoned. She proves her innocence, becomes the queen of Ayodhya, and prepares to welcome her children when she is exiled from the kingdom. Sita gets depressed but recovers enough to raise her twins as worthy beings. As she make an effort to immerse herself in the new life, she hears Valmiki’s Ramayan – a paean for the great King Ram.
While the Ramayana resonates even today, sita makes it more relevant than ever, in the outlining questions in the book: How should women be nursed by their loved ones? What is their righteousness in a relationship? When does a woman require to stand up and say, ‘Enough?
Can Sita still be the epitome of all womanhood?
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