9 min read ⌚
Jaya is a New York journalist heartbroken after suffering a miscarriage – for the third time!
Will a trip to the country of her ancestors heal her?
Find out in Sejal Badani’s “epic story of the unrelenting force of love, the power of healing, and the invincible desire to dream.”
Who Should Read “The Storyteller’s Secret”? And Why?
If you want to learn a thing or two about Indian customs – in addition to being reminded of the power of love – then The Storyteller’s Secret is a novel you should check out.
It feels as if it is not merely a story of one Indian girl – but of millions.
Sejal Badani Biography
Sejal Badani is an Indian author and a former lawyer.
She left her career in law to pursue writing full time. An ABC/Disney Writing Fellowship and CBS Writing Fellowship finalist, Badani made a name for herself already with her debut novel, Trail of Broken Wings.
Published near the end of 2018, The Storyteller’s Secret is her second book.
Find out more at https://www.sejalbadani.com/
Since we firmly believe that you’ll enjoy much better our plot summary if you can check who is who at every single moment of the story, once again, we provide you with a comprehensive genealogy table of the main characters in the story which lies behind The Storyteller’s Secret.
So, whenever a name sounds unfamiliar – or, better yet, familiar but you’re having problems placing it in the story – just go back to here, and you’ll be able to orient yourself in the story in no time!
The Third Miscarriage
In the very first paragraph of The Storyteller’s Secret, we are informed that one-fifth of women miscarry and that 80 percent of these lose the baby in the first three months of their pregnancy.
“If you are more than thirty years old,” goes on the narrator, “you have at least 12 percent chance of miscarrying, the percentage points increasing with each passing year.”
How does the narrator know all of this and why is any of this important to her?
You’ve guessed it: she has had a miscarriage herself; in fact, two of them; and she’s telling us all of these facts while not working in her office and holding a sonogram picture between her fingers:
I can recite these statistics and more by heart. I have researched them endlessly since we first started trying. That was over five years ago. Since then I have spent countless hours in the library and on the internet hoping for a new study or drug that improves the odds. But the results are always the same – for every baby born there are many that never reach gestation. For every woman who juggles a child in her arms, there is one who yearns for the cry of a child to comfort. For every family that fills a home, there are those who will never become parents.
Unfortunately, the narrator of our story, Jaya, seems preordained to be one of the latter.
Just a few moments after we hear the above, her husband Patrick, “a born litigator,” calls her; and before too long, we learn that Jaya is bleeding.
She’s gone through this one too many times in the past to have any doubts about what is happening to her.
In the summer of 2000, Jaya miscarries.
For the third time.
A Trip to India
Jaya is incapable of coping with her loss; and Patrick seems incapable of coping with Jaya’s inability to cope with it; and, what’s more, he wanted a child as well.
Things pan out in the worst way imaginable: he leaves her; just at the time when she needs him the most.
Devasted by the double loss, Jaya starts suffering from sporadic blackouts. To make matters worse, she has nobody to console her, mostly because her relationship with her mother Lena is bereaved of any emotions; the two have been distant from each other ever since Jaya remembers.
You thought that was all when it comes to bad news?
Guess again: Jaya learns that her grandfather Deepak – Lena’s father – is at his deathbed nearing the end of his journey on earth.
His only wish?
To see his children: his sons and his estranged daughter.
However, nobody wants to grant him that – not even Lena.
Jaya asks her mother why and she tells her – cryptically – that her banishment was her punishment for being born.
Of course, the first thing you do when you hear something like that from a closed one – and you know this from practically every movie ever made – is you investigate.
So, against her mother’s wishes, Jaya leaves England and goes back to the country of her ancestors, India.
There, at her mother’s former home, she happens upon a guy named Ravi.
He reveals to Jaya that Deepak died just two days before her arrival; and that he is not exactly the man he thinks he is.
Neither is, well, just about everyone from her family.
Time for a very long flashback.
Amisha and Deepak
Ravi, we learn, was the servant of Jaya’s grandmother Amisha; and, more or less, Amisha is the main protagonist in not only his but also in Sejal Badani’s story.
In accordance with old Indian laws, Amisha was given in marriage to a young local boy named Deepak – when she was barely a teenager. As was customary, after she moved in with Deepak’s family, all her connections with her birth family were severed: now she was a member of her husband’s household.
On their wedding night, both Amisha and Deepak are nervous – and we don’t need to tell you the reason for that.
However, as much as Amisha is nervous because of innocent reasons, Deepak feels that way because, well, he’s going to get laid for the first time.
Amisha notices his uneasiness and starts telling him a story so that she can decrease his stress and relax him; Amisha is a natural storyteller and, in a way, her plot works.
But, make no mistake: it’s not like Deepak cares for Amisha’s story or anything; it’s not like he cares for her, as a matter of fact; to him, Amisha is merely a function: she is just a woman, the woman who’ll bear his children and wash the dishes.
And, you know what?
Amisha is supposed to be happy about all of this!
At least that’s what Chara, Deepak’s mother, tells her: their family is well-regarded in the village, she says, and, let’s face it, that’s the most a woman can (and should) hope about.
Eventually, Amisha hires a servant: Ravi.
Ravi is untouchable, member of the lowest caste.
Fortunately, despite Chara’s protests, Deepak allows him to stay; Ravi remains eternally grateful and loves Amisha more than anything in the world.
Years pass and the Inglorious British Empire sets up an English school in Amisha’s village.
Amisha, hopeful that she could be able to write her stories in English one day in the future, meets with the head of the school, a British officer named Stephen.
Stephen notices her desire and convinces her to start going to school; Amisha, however, too afraid of Deepak’s reaction, quits after a single day.
Stephen would not have it: she goes over to her house and offers Amisha to become her personal tutor in English; in return, she would only need to teach the children at the local school creative writing.
Ravi convinces Amisha to accept; she does.
In Amisha proves to be a great teacher; she is especially adored by a teenage girl named Neema, who is the most talented in her class; unsurprisingly, Amisha is reminded of herself every time she sets her eyes upon Neema.
And every time she sets her eyes upon Stephen, she starts feeling some tingling in the area around her heart.
As the two grow closer and closer, it becomes rather obvious that Stephen feels much the same way about her.
One day, Amisha gifts Stephen a story about two brothers meeting each other in Heaven; Stephen is touched: his own brother had died in the war, and he’s more than aware that this story was written specifically with him in mind.
Amisha, in the meantime, realizes that a story by Neema is highly personal as well.
In it, a girl kills herself to avoid being forced into an arranged marriage; Amisha correctly deduces that Neema’s hand is already promised and that she doesn’t want to accept the inevitability of her fate.
Love… and Everything That Comes With It
One day, while preparing the house for the inevitable hurricane, Ravi injures himself; however, since he’s untouchable, no doctor in the city wants to have anything to do with his injury.
Amisha, seeing no way out, runs to Stephen’s house; Stephen takes Ravi to a military base where he is treated for his injury.
Stephen comes back from the base and reveals to Amisha that Ravi is fine; overcome with emotions, Amisha jumps in his arms and kisses him; Stephen returns the kiss; the third kiss is deep and passionate.
Nothing further happens, since Amisha is told in the meantime that one of her students tried to kill herself.
You get zero points for guessing that the student is none other than Neema; Amisha was right: inspired by her classes, Neema started feeling that the choice between death and loveless marriage is not as difficult as it may seem to some.
After the story of Neema makes the rounds and reaches the ears of Deepak, he forbids Amisha to ever return to school.
It’s a double blow for Amisha since this also spells the end of her meetings and discussions with Stephen; Ravi helps in relation to the latter: as soon as he recovers, he acts as a messenger between the two
One day, Amisha learns that Stephen has been reassigned to another post, away not only from her hometown but also from India.
Distraught, she ignores all prohibitions and risks, and goes over to Stephen; the two finally make love.
Yup, that’s when Lena was conceived; Jaya’s grandfather was never called Deepak.
The Storyteller’s Secret Epilogue
Lena’s real grandfather never got to know her: Stephen left India in the meantime, and, a few years later, Amisha died, the victim of a fatal tropic disease contracted from a mosquito bite.
Deepak remarried, and his new wife Omi didn’t like Lena one bit; especially not after finding Amisha’s love letters to Stephen.
Deepak fires Ravi for allowing the affair to happen and starts neglecting Lena; no wonder she started neglecting her daughter as well: she was never loved enough to learn how to love.
Back in the present, Ravi reveals to Lena that the secret of Amisha’s relationship wasn’t the only one she kept throughout the years.
There’s an even bigger one, he says.
Namely, Stephen came back for Amisha, stubbornly determined to take her with him and never look back; however, Ravi stopped him, telling him that it’s for the best of both of them that things stay the way they are.
Jaya forgives Ravi: we’ll never know if he made the right decision, but we’ll always know that he did it with the best of intentions.
Soon after, Jaya gets a phone call; it’s none other than Patrick, telling her that he loves her and that he has made a mistake.
He’s in India, looking for her.
The two settle their differences and decide to adopt children; there are hints that these children may be Ravi’s: Misha and Amit.
Ravi allows them to travel to London with Patrick and Jaya so that Misha can get polio treatment, something he’s unable to in India.
Soon after the four leave, Amisha’s spirit appears to Ravi.
“You did a good job,” it says. “Now, it’s time to take some rest.”
Ravi passes away.
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“The Storyteller’s Secret PDF Summary Quotes”At the end, we are all the same, just a body with only our actions and others’ memories to define who we are. Click To Tweet ’You should be with someone who can make you happy.’ My heart breaks as I set him free. With all the love I have ever felt for him, I whisper, ‘You deserve that.’ Click To Tweet When you are next to the earth, you can hear her secrets. Click To Tweet Those who leave have a reason that is more powerful than the one to stay. Click To Tweet I can’t help but think when we have nothing else, when there are no answers, faith is our greatest ally. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
The Storyteller’s Secret is a touching story about love, loyalty, and self-discovery; it is gently and soothingly written, and you will probably need a tissue here and there.
“This stimulating novel reads like a true-to-life story,” says a review by Historical Novel Society. “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.”
In other words, there is more than one reason why you should read this book.
Learn more and more, in the speed that the world demands.