Storyteller's Secret (Badani)

The Storyteller's Secret  
Sejal Badani, 2018
Amazon Publishing
412 pp.

An epic story of the unrelenting force of love, the power of healing, and the invincible desire to dream.

Nothing prepares Jaya, a New York journalist, for the heartbreak of her third miscarriage and the slow unraveling of her marriage in its wake.

Desperate to assuage her deep anguish, she decides to go to India to uncover answers to her family’s past. Intoxicated by the sights, smells, and sounds she experiences, Jaya becomes an eager student of the culture.

But it is Ravi—her grandmother’s former servant and trusted confidant—who reveals the resilience, struggles, secret love, and tragic fall of Jaya’s pioneering grandmother during the British occupation. Through her courageous grandmother’s arrestingly romantic and heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
A former attorney, Sejal Badani left the law to pursue writing full time. She was an ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship and CBS Writing Fellowship Finalist.

When not writing, she loves reading, biking along the ocean, traveling and trying to teach her teacup Morkie not to hide socks under the bed (so far she has been completely unsuccessful). Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, and Ed Sheeran are always playing in the background. She would love to speak to book clubs via Skypes. (From the author's website.)

Book Reviews
This stimulating novel reads like a true-to-life story…The descriptions of the lives of both common villagers and the well-off are informative. The insights into the local customs and traditions might be an eye-opener even for those familiar with Indians’ time-honored ways.
Historical Novel Society

While the narrative at times reflects the dark elements of human nature, the tone is hopeful and enriching. Badani builds imagery with a gentleness that is soothing to take in and threads together rich descriptions of the landscape that are transportive.
USA Today

The Storyteller’s Secret is a lavishly told tale of secrets, love, and loyalty. It is a celebration of the beauty of story and its ability to help us be heard and understood.
New York Journal of Books

Discussion Questions
1. In the beginning of the novel, we read of Jaya’s miscarriages and the collapse of her marriage. Jaya and her husband have different ways of coping with their pain. How did their coping mechanisms differ? How did they contribute to the breakdown of their marriage?

2. Jaya feels the pain of her mom’s emotional distance throughout her life. As a child, she always wished for a closer relationship and was desperate for her affection. Their relationship is transformed by Jaya’s trip to India. How would you describe their relationship before and after?

3. Jaya travels to India in the hopes of discovering her family’s long held secrets. She reflects that, after knowing her past, she is ready for the future. How does uncovering your family’s past affect your life?

4. Jaya meets Ravi, her grandmother’s servant, and learns of the beautiful relationship they had despite their different ranks in the caste system. How does Ravi and Jaya’s relationship progress? How would you describe it?

5. Ravi still carries guilt from decisions he made decades ago. Did he do the right thing both times? How might the characters lives look if he had chosen differently? Are there any other moments in the novel where events could have been drastically different if a character made a different decision?

6. Jaya learns the story of her pioneering grandmother and how in many ways she was born before her time. How did her dreams and interests differ from those of her family members and fellow villagers? What was expected of her? How were her dreams in conflict?

7. Amisha had an arranged marriage and her role in life was predetermined by society. How have things changed for women? How are they still the same?

8. Jaya ponders: "maybe life is a series of decisions with destiny thrown in.” Do you agree? Do you believe we control our stories with decisions, or are our fates pre-determined by destiny?

9. Amisha’s husband Deepak’s attitude towards her and her work at the school changes several times in the novel. What does this say about how Deepak views his wife? Does he love her? Does he understand her?

10. Amisha deeply regrets not helping a student whose stories seemed to be a call for help. Do teachers have a duty to save their students, even if it means risking their job? Does Amisha ever ask for help?

11. At the heart of this epic story is love—the fierce and immeasurable love Amisha had for her children and the romantic love she had for Stephen. Discuss how these two loves in her life made her feel. Were they in conflict with each other? Did she feel like she had to choose?

12. What was your reaction to Amisha not telling Stephen the truth? Did she make the best choice? Did she have a choice?

13. Badani explores exotic India, it’s traditions and long history. How has India changed? How have things changed for Ravi and his family? How are things the same?

14. Amisha longed for an education and dreamed of writing. Jaya is moved by the struggle and her strength despite her lack of choices. The sacrifices she made for her children and the courage she showed in wanting more for her daughter. How can we be inspired by our ancestor’s stories?
(Questions from the author's website.)

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