The Sandalwood Tree
In 1947, American historian and veteran of WWII, Martin Mitchell, wins a Fulbright Fellowship to document the end of British rule in India. His wife, Evie, convinces him to take her and their young son along, hoping a shared adventure will mend their marriage, which has been strained by war.
But other places, other wars. Martin and Evie find themselves stranded in a colonial bungalow in the Himalayas due to violence surrounding the partition of India between Hindus and Muslims. In that house, hidden behind a brick wall, Evie discovers a packet of old letters, which tell a strange and compelling story of love and war involving two young Englishwomen who lived in the same house in 1857.
Drawn to their story, Evie embarks on a mission to piece together her Victorian mystery. Her search leads her through the bazaars and temples of India as well as the dying society of the British Raj. Along the way, Martin’s dark secret is exposed, unleashing a new wedge between Evie and him. As India struggles toward Independence, Evie struggles to save her marriage, pursuing her Victorian ghosts for answers.
Bursting with lavish detail and vivid imagery of Calcutta and beyond, The Sandalwood Tree is a powerful story about betrayal, forgiveness, fate, and love.
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The Sandalwood Tree
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Our train hurtled past a gold-spangled woman in a mango sari, regal even as she sat in the dirt, patting cow dung into disks for cooking fuel. A sweep of black hair obscured her face and she did not look up as the passing train shook the ground under her bare feet. We barreled past one crumbling, sun-scorched village after another, and the farther we got from Delhi the more animals we saw trudging alongside the endless swarm of people—arrogant camels, humpbacked cows, bullock-drawn carts, goats and monkeys, and suicidal dogs. The people walked slowly, balancing vessels on their...see more
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Reading Group Guide
Martin and Evie Mitchell are Americans, living with their small son in an Indian village in the Himalayas in 1947, the infamous year of India’s war of Partition. Martin, a historian, is there on a Fulbright Fellowship to complete his Ph.D. thesis on Partition. But as a Jewish veteran of World War II, his demons have followed him to India, and he and Evie are growing further and further apart.
In their colonial bungalow, Evie unearths a packet of letters written by two Victorian women between 1855 and 1856. The letters hint at scandal and drama, but they are damaged and incomplete. They offer just enough information to intrigue Evie, and she decides to find out what happened to them. Since she and Martin are trapped in a remote hill station, unable to travel because of the unrest surrounding Partition, Evie has plenty of time to go sleuthing.
Her search leads her through the temples and bazaars of India as well as through the dying society of the British Raj, and she see more