This is the story of a little 13-year-old girl from Nepal, named Lakshmi, and what happens to her after her family is tricked into selling her into a prostitution ring from India. It’s not a nice story. It’s horrible. But it’s also compelling.
Technically, it’s told in short vignettes. Very short. Some chapters are only a sentence long. So it reads quickly. And unlike Punch Line – which is also told in vignettes – Sold really holds together as a single coherent story. There’s an overarching narrative – as wretched as it is – and the author, Patricia McCormick, sends you with Lakshmi to watch as she comes to understand the life she’s been led into: from thinking she’s merely going to the city work as a maid, being taken to another country altogether and losing any hope of being able to find her village again, and finally coming to the brothel where she’s essentially made to sleep with men against her will to keep the madam in expensive clothes.
The Madam, Mumtaz, is reprehensible. I picture her as Ursula from The Little Mermaid, only this isn’t Disney and the horrible things she does are not mere cartoon violence. And it’s made all the more disheartening because, even if Mumtaz might eventually gets her comeuppance, you just know there are thousands of others just like her ready to make their lives on the backs of others.
After all, this book is based on true stories. While it’s not one person’s life, the author did go to Calcutta to speak with sex workers and women who have been rescued form the sex industry. As a result, the book is wonderfully well-written. It’s just under 300 pages, but it reads like a breeze. and yet it’s so lush. It’s like poetry in a way – the language is so evocative of not only sights and sounds, but the emotion that Lakshmi is feeling. Her fear and her suffering.
I wanted to read this book because it’s tied to the work I do. The organization I work for has had some experience in trying to stop human trafficking in Nepal at the Indian border. But despite the fact that I’ve heard descriptions of these horrors before, it’s never hit me exactly what these girls must endure. This book makes it clear, and in all it’s horrid truth.