This is the story of Lakshmi, a Nepalese girl who had a happy, but difficult life on the side of a mountain with her mother and little brother until her lazy, gambling stepfather sold her away. She is taken to the big city in India and put in a brothel. Her life becomes one entirely of fear and pain as she works to pay for her way home amid a household full of girls without hope for a future or a life other than the one they have no matter how hard they work. It’s a heartbreaking story that is all the more painful for the fact that although Lakshmi is fictional, thousands of girls just like her do really exist and are living her life every day. McCormick did an amazing job in telling this story.
I was incredibly impressed with every inch of this story. From Lakshmi’s wants and fears and hopes, which were so real and so hard to read at times, to the incredibly detailed and textile descriptions of everything from the mountain Lakshmi grew up on to the floors of the brothel kitchen. The descriptions of people were particularly intense. Their hair was described, the colors and shapes and implied emotions in their faces, the fabric and draping of the clothes they wore, even their shoes! In some cases, I almost wished the descriptions hadn’t been quite so vivid, but ultimately it was that vividness that brought the world and the characters and their suffering and hope to life.
One of the things I found most interesting in this book was the portrayal of the men in it. Almost all the male characters were pretty horrible, as you might expect from such a story, but there were a few that were not. What was interesting was that both of the male characters who were nice and had a presence in the book beyond a page or two were young – the son of one of the other women and a boy who sold them tea each day. Few of the adult men got to be anything but horrible. The few who did, made lasting impressions on Lakshmi but never returned. I started to wonder after a while where all the nice men were or if the impression I was supposed to get was that there weren’t any in that part of the world, which wouldn’t really be true either. On the other hand, that probably is what Lakshmi started to think (if she thought about it at all), and I can see why perhaps McCormick would have wanted the reader to share her impressions.
This was an amazing book that really does a great job of shedding light on an ongoing tragedy that much of the world largely ignores. Lakshmi was really one of those characters that stays with you long after you’ve stopped reading. Sold makes the reader think and maybe even want to help. I would definitely recommend this book. It’s an amazing read and is absolutely worth it.