Divorced from her spineless husband, Sudha brings her daughter to America to console her beloved Anju, who is increasingly estranged from her husband, Sunil. But living in the same household becomes a recipe for disaster when all three must acknowledge Sunil's secret infatuation with Sudha. The women's friendship is also tested by the cultural divide that "the accident of America" has thrust between them. As in her previous work, Divakaruni excels at depicting the nuances of the immigrant experience, particularly in Sunil's struggle to remain honorable in a society that prizes the selfish pursuit of desire and in Sudha's conflict between familial duty and her new home's idealization of individuality.
An award-winning poet, Divakaruni writes prose that is lush (if sometimes too flowery), but her dialogue fails to capture the emotional register of each character. What saves Desire from mere melodrama is the strength of her fully fleshed characters. Her flawed narrators can't be heroes, no matter how much we want them to be; they are, however, compelling, unpredictable, and frustrating. Fans of Divakaruni's Sister will be happy to rediscover the two women as adults, but they may find that they don't like them nearly as much.