This month I read The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi and I really enjoyed it for the most part. I learned a lot about the Indian culture and their caste system, which is what I was hoping. Working with artisans in India through Trades of Hope, was what sort of piqued my interest in this book, and it allowed me to gain a better understanding of how their caste system works and what it means for women. There were a lot of Indian words in it that I obviously didn’t know, but I could figure out some of them just using context clues. The author did provide a glossary of terms at the back of the book. However, reading it on my iPad made it a little more difficult to access it easily. I think I would have utilized it more had I had the actual hard copy. There was also a list of characters at the beginning of the book that gave a sort of background explaining who each person was. This was helpful information, but, again, it was difficult to reference it as I read since it was an eBook. Those two things were probably my biggest issues with this book. Other than that, I really enjoyed the storyline. The characters were well developed and there was a good balance between the actual plot line and the historical facts about the economy and customs in India. I thought that the storyline was very well developed even with multiple intricate parts and multiple characters. I would recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in Henna art, Indian culture, or a great storyline.
The Henna Artist revolves around the life of a woman named Lakshmi Shastri. She was born into one of the highest Hindu caste levels (Brahmin) as her father was a teacher. However, circumstances had left her family very poor. Her parents arranged for her to marry at the young age of 15. While living with her husband whom she despised due to his violent nature, Lakshmi learned about natural herbs, teas, and medicines to help women with a variety of medical issues from her mother-in-law. After 2 years of marriage, Lakshmi couldn’t take it anymore and one day snuck away and left her husband. At first she was making a living by making contraceptive teas for courtesans to keep them childless while also learning the art of henna. She eventually ended up in Jaipur where she climbed the ladder through hard work and became the most sought-after henna artist to Jaipur’s elite. She had this to say about working with one particular woman a similar caste.
“Parvati and I were born to the two highest Hindu casts, she a Kshatriya and me a Brahmin. But she could never bring herself to treat me as an equal because I touched the feet of ladies as I painted their henna. Feet were considered unclean, only to be handled by the low-caste Shudras. So even though her caste system had relied on mine for centuries to educate their children and perform spiritual rites, in the eyes of Jaipur’s elite, I was now a fallen Brahmin.”
Despite the elite not truly accepting her as one of them, things were going very well for Lakshmi and opportunities were opening up for her. That was until, out of the blue, her husband, Hari, showed up. He brought with him her thirteen-year-old sister with news that her parents had both died. Lakshmi never even knew her sister existed. This set in motion a series of unfortunate events that led her to go from the best of the best to the person no one wanted in their homes. Lakshmi’s story is one of restoration, redemption, and the will to never give up. She went from a broken family, to being completely alone, to finding out the true meaning of family. She learned that success and climbing the ladder wasn’t truly the most important thing in life, and she also learned to use her gifts to help others in a special way. This really was a great story and one that I believe many would enjoy.
I decided to switch it up a bit and go for a mystery/thriller for my pick for July. I have chosen The Last Flight by Julie Clark. It has been said by some to be one of the top books of 2020 so far. Here is what Apple Books has to say about this book.
“For two women on the run, a split-second decision offers a chance at a new life…or a whole new set of dangers. At the beginning of Julie Clark’s fiercely feminist psychological thriller, Claire—the wife of a beloved philanthropist whose hideous true nature is a well-kept-secret—is at the airport, about to launch into her carefully constructed escape plan. But then Claire makes an impulsive decision to switch passports and plane tickets with Eva, a streetwise survivor on the run from her drug-kingpin former boss. And we can’t say much more than that because, seriously, things get really crazy from that point on. Alternating between Claire’s and Eva’s viewpoints, Clark’s book feels like a mix of Gone Girl and The Bourne Identity. It’s that fast-paced and that good. Order takeout, because you won’t be leaving the couch until you turn the last page.”
Will you come along and read with me?
Anchored in a Good Book,
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