Sunday, September 5, 2010

Alice's Review: Sold

Summary:  Lakshmi, 13, knows nothing about the world beyond her village shack in the Himalayas of Nepal, and when her family loses the little it has in a monsoon, she grabs a chance to work as a maid in the city so she can send money back home. What she doesn't know is that her stepfather has sold her into prostitution. She ends up in a brothel far across the border in the slums of Calcutta, locked up, beaten, starved, drugged, raped, "torn and bleeding," until she submits. In beautiful clear prose and free verse that remains true to the child's viewpoint, first-person, present-tense vignettes fill in Lakshmi's story. The brutality and cruelty are ever present ("I have been beaten here, / locked away, / violated a hundred times / and a hundred times more"), but not sensationalized. An unexpected act of kindness is heartbreaking ("I do not know a word / big enough to hold my sadness"). One haunting chapter brings home the truth of "Two Worlds": the workers love watching The Bold and the Beautifulon TV though in the real world, the world they know, a desperate prostitute may be approached to sell her own child. An unforgettable account of sexual slavery as it exists now.  Hazel Rochman for Booklist

Review:  I know we should never judge (or buy) a book by it's cover, but I did just that when I picked up Sold by Patricia McCormick.  The eyes of the young girl on the cover were so haunting and raw, I knew right away I wanted to know her story.  After reading the summary on the back, I was sold.  Not only did this novel tell a story about a culture I’m not at all familiar with, her was a life so different from mine, I found it completely fascinating.

To be honest¸ I’m not quite sure where to begin. This has been a very difficult review to write because of the subject matter.  Childhood prostitution and slavery are heartwrenching topics.  Heartwrenching isn't even the right word, it's much more severe than that.  It's sick and preverted.  It blows my mind that something like this is allowed to happen in the world.

This work of fiction is beautifully written and reads like a diary of a thirteen-year-old girl sold into prostitution by a step father who cared more about his clothes than the protection of his family. She grew up in a culture where “a son will always be a son, they say. But a girl is like a goat. Good as long as she gives you milk and butter. But not worth crying over when it’s time to make a stew.”  Lakshmi had a life that was never hers to live as she choose.  Her life was dictated to her, from how long she was allowed to study to whom she married.  Her allies in this book are Ama, her mother and her pet goat, Tali. 

I loved the relationship between Lakshmi and her mother. Her mother taught her to be strong, to dream. I believe her mom taught her everything she needed to know in order to be strong enough to endure what was to come. 

There is so much in this book that stuck with me.  Lakshmi went from a girl imprisioned but with a strong spirit “But I do not cry.”  To someone who was so emotionally and physically broken that during the rape she says, “Then I understand: I was the person crying.”  She wants nothing more than to hold onto her life with her mother and pet goat Tali.  My absolute favorite line is this:

“Trying to remember, I have learned, is like trying to clutch a handful of fog. Trying to forget, like trying to hold back a monsoon.”

Although the subject manner was hard to read without feeling anger and sorrow at the injustice for Lakshmi and the other girls in the brothel, I'm glad that I read it. It opened my eyes to something I can't believe actually exists. 

Final Take: 3/5



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