Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee. The Palace of Illusions. Anchor Books, New York: 2008.
This is a story of an Indian woman named Panchaali. She desires to be envied by all, but she doesn't realize what her wish will actually bring to her life. In her quest to be admired and loved, she marries five brothers (at one time, alternating years of actually being with each of them), lives in a beautiful palace, loses everything, is forced to live in the forest for many years, and finally realizes what she most desires, she already has.
This story gave me quite an insight into Indian culture. It was hard for me to keep up with some of the characters, as the names were similar (and hard for me to pronounce). I took all summer to read this book (in spurts), so I probably would have been better off to read it in fewer sittings. There was intrigue and mystery. I felt that Divakaruni did a good job explaining the significance certain aspects of the culture that I would not otherwise understand. Divakaruni also did a good job weaving the supernatural elements with the story. I believed what Panchallai said happened did happen exactly the way she explained.
There is a helpful family tree chart and list of major characters in the story that I referred to when I'd forget characters. Two things I marked in the book that I thought were important were: when the sage warns Panchaali "only a fool meddles in the great design" (Divakaruni 40) and almost at the end of the book when Panchaali states, "when I'd had the chance to appreciate them, I'd spent it venting my dissatisfaction" (Divakaruni 349). I think as humans, we often don't appreciate what or who we have until it/they are gone.
Another nugget of wisdom from this book is "a problem becomes a problem only if you believe it to be so" (Divakaruni 9). I think this is a mantra for the power of positive thinking.