Disney Book Group|April 1, 2008|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 13:978-0-078685172-0
Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshimi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family.
He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.
An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.
Laksmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother’s words: “simply to endure is to triumph” and gradually she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision. Will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?
Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.
The writing style in this novel is very unique. It is written in short vignettes making for a simple, quick, but captivating read.
Lakshmi is a twelve-year-old girl living atop the mountains of Nepal. Her mother and step-father are very poor but the step-father often squanders away any money they do have. Although they live in nothing but a hut, Lakshmi is a happy girl deriving her pleasure from playing hopscotch in the dirt with her best friend and sitting quietly while her mother brushes her hair by the light of an oil lamp.
Lakshmi’s step-father has run up a few debts with his gambling and tells Lakshmi that she is going to have to work to help support the family. It is only due to his lack of responsibility that pushes Lakshmi out of the house to work. She is told she is being taken to the city to become a maid.
Lakshmi is taken to Calcutta, India and it is there that she realizes for the first time the real motives of her handlers. She has been sold into prostitution at a place called “Happy House” and there is nothing “happy” whatsoever about this house.
Her employer and owner, Mumtaz, has deceived her parents about the real conditions of Lakshmi’s working life. For 30 rupees, men can purchase “quickie sex”. Lakshmi thinks as soon as she has worked long enough to pay Mumtaz the 10,000 rupees she believes is her debt, she can return home to her family but Mumtaz places a 20,000 rupee debt on the books. She says it’s to cover “ALL” the expenses – heat, food, clothing, make-up, and medical shots given by the dirty doctor.
According to the author, each year nearly 12,000 Nepali girls are sold by their families “intentionally” or “unwittingly” into a life of sexual slavery in the brothels of India. The U.S. State Department estimates that a staggering half million children are trafficked into the sex trade each year.
The sad thing is that, when or if, some of these girls do make it home they are ignored by their families for fear of shaming them as happened to one girl in Sold. I guess the lesson there is that sometimes being “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “being free”.
Anyone interested in joining the fight against human trafficking and the sex slave trade can visit Patricia McCormick’s website for information regarding rescuing young women. If we all helped, we could make a difference. You can visit McCormick’s website at: www.patriciamccormick.com SOLD was an excellent, well-written account of just one girl out of millions caught up in the sex trade each year.