by Amita Trasi
Synopsis: In the spirit of Khaled Hosseini, Nadia Hashimi and Shilpi Somaya Gowda comes this powerful debut from a talented new voice—a sweeping, emotional journey of two childhood friends in Mumbai, India, whose lives converge only to change forever one fateful night.
India, 1986: Mukta, a ten-year-old village girl from the lower caste Yellama cult has come of age and must fulfill her destiny of becoming a temple prostitute, as her mother and grandmother did before her. In an attempt to escape her fate, Mukta is sent to be a house girl for an upper-middle class family in Mumbai. There she discovers a friend in the daughter of the family, high spirited eight-year-old Tara, who helps her recover from the wounds of her past. Tara introduces Mukta to an entirely different world—one of ice cream, reading, and a friendship that soon becomes a sisterhood.
But one night in 1993, Mukta is kidnapped from Tara’s family home and disappears. Shortly thereafter, Tara and her father move to America. A new life in Los Angeles awaits them but Tara never recovers from the loss of her best friend, or stops wondering if she was somehow responsible for Mukta’s abduction.
Eleven years later, Tara, now an adult, returns to India determined to find Mukta. As her search takes her into the brutal underground world of human trafficking, Tara begins to uncover long-buried secrets in her own family that might explain what happened to Mukta—and why she came to live with Tara’s family in the first place.
Moving from a traditional Indian village to the bustling modern metropolis of Mumbai, to Los Angeles and back again, this is a heartbreaking and beautiful portrait of an unlikely friendship—a story of love, betrayal, and, ultimately, redemption.
My Review: This book was on my shelf for a while and I am glad I finally read it. It was a tremendously moving story. It reminded me very much of the Kite Runner, but the story was different in many aspects. Child prostitution and human trafficking is very real in many parts of the world, India being one of them. Although the story is fictional, the premise is very real and the author based the character of Mukta on the daughter of a servant in her home when she was younger.
Mukta is the daughter of a temple prostitute and the son of a rich, high caste man. Although it can not be proven who the father is, she looks like him. When her grandmother sells her to a madam, she is sent to Mumbai to live with a family by a the man’s mother. She does not want to see the young girl forced into the life of prostitution. She becomes friends with the daughter, Tara. They are like sisters until Tara’s mother dies in a bombing. She blames Mukta for her death and asks a street hoodlum to come and take her from their home and return her to her village. Mukta is kidnapped from the bedroom and shortly after, Tara and her father move to America. It is not until her father’s suicide that she finds out the Mukta is still alive and she heads to Mumbai to find her and rescue her.
The story is told alternately from Mukta’s and Tara’s points of view. It also switches back and forth in time telling the story of their youth, as well as Mukta’s present life and Tara’s search. The circumstances of the lives of these girls lead them to make certain decisions as well as trap them in the lives they lead. The story is heart wrenching at times, knowing that this is the life for many women and girls. The writing was beautiful. There are so many quotes to take from this story. This would make a great book club read. I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about other country’s customs (good or bad), dramas, stories based on real life situations and just a great book.