The Storyteller's Secret


A Novel

By: Sejal Badani

Published: September 1, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Fiction – Historical Fiction

5 stars

After suffering from her third miscarriage, Jaya realizes her heart is empty and her marriage is likely over. When her own mother refuses to return to India at the request of her dying father, Jaya wonders if this is the escape she needs. Jaya decides to go and see what is keeping her mother from going back home and maybe by connecting with her heritage she will fill the hole in her heart.

Badani, the best-selling author of TRAIL OF BROKEN WINGS, dives readers deep into the culture of India, but not in the big cities of India. Instead, we visit small villages where the customs and traditions are vital to how individuals are treated and their status is viewed. The caste system decided who could work, who could speak to whom, and who could go to school. Arranged marriages and dowries were also the norm for Jaya’s grandma, Amisha. Her story is the missing piece to the puzzle of why Jaya’s mother has been so distant and unforgiving her whole life. Jaya has no idea the story that will unfold and the impact it will have on her future.

Told in two stories, we first learn of Jaya’s heartbreaking losses and her life growing up in America. Then we are introduced to a young Amisha, newly married to a man she had never met and immediately removed from the safety of her family several villages away. Going back and forth between eras, we learn Amisha’s story as Jaya is told it from Amisha’s closest confidante. Through the story of Amisha’s life, the culture of their village during the war emerges. The distrust of the British soldiers and their intrusion on the village adds another level of fear and anger among the people. So much of Amisha’s struggles and heartache center on the rules she must abide by. As an American, it is hard to fathom such restrictions.

The farther we get into Amisha’s story, the more emotional it becomes. The turmoil in Amisha’s mind over the choices she made and Jaya’s reaction to them reveal much about own her mother. In the final chapters, the conclusion to the story overwhelmed me. I had to put the book down several times due to my tears preventing me from being able to read the words.  The deep loss Jaya felt, the revelation of her grandmother’s choice, and the future laying before Jaya moved me deeply. It’s a story of tradition, loyalty, deep love, loss and eventually healing. Three generations of a family are impacted by one singular choice, yet when the story is finally told, everything seems a little clearer. Jaya’s story was full of deep sadness but through her trip to India, new doors have opened that she never would have dreamed. The hopeful ending to the story offers readers the chance to remember that our life doesn’t have to follow the paths of our ancestors. We can learn from their mistakes and forge a new path. A path that focuses on good fortune and happiness.

Badani transports the reader to India through vivid descriptions of the land, the people, the food (you could almost smell it) and the beautiful saris worn by the women. She shares cultural holidays and traditions with intriguing customs like throwing colored powder on each other or women fasting for days until their beloved comes to give them food.

Even though the story is full of sadness, the joy does come and sometimes joy seems even more wonderful when it comes after deep sadness. There are no loose ends and the reader can be left satisfied with a feeling of hope and new beginnings for Jaya. The women in this story took risks, grabbed opportunities when they came across them, made the tough choices, and loved their family. If you love reading about strong female characters, women challenging the status quo, or learning about a culture different from yours, this book won’t disappoint you.


Sejal Badani

A former attorney, Sejal Badani left the law to pursue writing full time. She is a bestselling author, Goodreads Fiction Award Finalist and ABC/DISNEY Writing Fellowship Finalist. When not writing, she loves reading and traveling. Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, and Ed Sheeran are always playing in the background. She loves speaking to book clubs via Skype. Connect with her at her website, HERE.

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