One freezing winter morning a dead body is found in the backyard
of the Dharma family's house. It's the body of Anu Krishnan.
For Anu, a writer seeking a secluded retreat from the city, the
Dharmas' "back-house" in the sleepy mountain town of Merrit's Point
was the ideal spot to take a year off and begin writing. She had
found the Dharmas' rental through a happy coincidence. A friend
from university who had kept tabs on everyone in their graduating
year - including the quiet and reserved Vikram Dharma and his first
wife, Helen - sent her the listing. Anu vaguely remembered Vikram
but had a strong recollection of Helen, a beautiful, vivacious,
social and charming woman.
But now Vikram had a new wife, a marriage hastily arranged in India
after Helen was killed in a car accident. Suman Dharma, a stark
contrast to Helen, is quiet and timid. She arrived from the
bustling warmth of India full of the promise of her new life - a
new home, a new country and a daughter from Vikram's first
marriage. But her husband's suspicious, controlling and angry
tirades become almost a daily ritual, resigning Suman to a desolate
future entangled in a marriage of fear and despair.
Suman is isolated both by the landscape and the culture, and her
fortunes begin to change only when Anu arrives. A friendship begins
to form between the two women as Anu becomes a frequent visitor to
the house. While the children, Varsha and Hemant, are at school,
Anu, Vikram's mother, Akka, and Suman spend time sharing tea and
But Anu's arrival will change the balance of the Dharma household.
Young Varsha, deeply affected by her mother's death and desperate
to keep her new family together, becomes increasingly suspicious of
Anu's relationship with her stepmother. Varsha's singular attention
to keeping her family together, and the secrets that emerge as Anu
and Suman become friends, create cracks in the Dharma family that
can only spell certain disaster.
1. Why do you believe Vikram chooses Suman as his wife? How does
his previous marriage inform his decision?
2. Akka does not involve herself in the relationship between her
son and Suman. Why do you believe this is, given Akka's own
3. What was your reaction when the circumstances behind Anu's
death are revealed? What do you believe is ultimately the fate of
Suman and Hemant and the rest of the Dharma family?
4. For many of the characters in Tell It to the
Trees, in the space between anger and betrayal lies
forgiveness. In what ways does Badami explore forgiveness through
5. Tell It to the Trees is told from the
perspectives of four different characters-Varsha, Suman, Hemant and
Anu. Why do you believe Badami chose to keep Akka and Vikram
6. In a review of one of Badami's previous books, the reviewer
wrote, "In Badami's writing she has held a fascination with the
day-to-day heroism needed to survive all the unexpected disasters
and pitfalls in life." In Tell It to the Trees,
who do you believe are the heroes? In what ways are they
7. How do Anu's life experiences and choices inform her
perspective on Suman's relationship with Vikram? How does Suman's
perspective differ? Why?
8. In what ways does a sense of loss push Vikram and Varsha to
extremes? Are there other characters whose decisions are also
affected by loss?
9. Do you believe that what precipitates the unraveling of the
Dharma household can be attributed in whole to Anu's involvement or
was it only a matter of time before the cracks in the facade of the
family began to show themselves?
10. In what ways does Merrit's Point reflect Suman's