(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Desirable Daughters employs unusual amounts of autobiographical material in an immigrant novel of self-discovery that combines elements of fairy-tale-like myth with a suspenseful mystery-thriller plot.

The daughters are three sisters from Calcutta (Kolkatta), India, brought up like modern princesses within their protective wealthy Hindu Brahmin caste. They live in the exclusive enclave of Ballygunge, are schooled in English at the Loreto convent by Irish nuns, perform in The Mikado, and are shown off by doting parents at cocktail parties. They are obviously modeled on Mukherjee and her two siblings.

Consonant with Mukherjee’s persistent immigrant theme, two of the sisters migrate to the United States while one remains in India. Tara, the novel’s narrator, is the youngest. She made an arranged marriage to Bish Chatterjee, who epitomizes the Asian immigrant’s American Dream by excelling at Stanford University, starting up a dot-com company, and becoming a Silicon Valley multimillionaire before age thirty. However, Tara becomes bored by her marriage, so she realizes another version of the Asian immigrant’s American Dream by obtaining a California-style, no-fault divorce and celebrating her liberation with moderate promiscuity. She then settles into a pricey home in the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco with her gay teenage son and her boyfriend, a Hungarian Buddhist handyman biker.

Into Tara’s sybaritic American Eden,...

(The entire section is 555 words.)