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Lakshmi the 13 year old narrator is fictional, but she is heartbreakingly the composite of thousands of Nepali girls sold by their families and trafficked into the brothels of India. Sold is told in short chapters--most not even a page long, some reading like verse--which eloquently captures the voice of a girl not used to having much free time, having her voice heard, or too sad to say much at once. Nonetheless, an voice of innocence dimmed but a spirit not extinguished shines through. We first meet Lakshmi living with her family on the slopes of the Himalayas, eking out a precarious existence but full of simple pleasures and maternal love. However, a monsoon and her disabled stepfather's gambling habit conspire to send Lakshmi away to the city for a "maid's" job with a stranger for 800 rupees. Taking in the new sights and sounds with wonder en route to India, Lakshmi is brutally introduced to her real position as an underage prostitute by the calculating brothel owner Mumtaz, to whom the debts of sexual indentured servitude will never be worked off. Nonetheless, she retains her love of learning and make friends--including fellow sex workers with similarly heartbreaking stories--who might enable her to escape this hopeless existence. Given the subject matter, it's a bit surprising Sold is a young adult book, but the violence and sex at the brothel are not graphically portrayed. The story ends abruptly, but one can only hope that means Lakshmi and the girls on whom she is based are no longer living as commodities sold and used. It's a story very deserving of being a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007.
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Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com
SOLD tells the story of Lakshmi, who lives in a tiny mountain village in Nepal. She lives in a hut with her stepfather, mother, and baby brother. Poverty is all Lakshmi knows. She speaks of swallowing her spit and pretending it is soup, tightening her waistcloth to fool her belly into thinking it's full, and thickening her stew with dirt. Lakshmi dreams of going to the city like some girls and working for a rich family to send money back to her own relatives on the mountain.
One day her stepfather returns home with a woman he says Lakshmi should call Auntie. He has made a deal for Auntie to take Lakshmi down the mountain to work. It seems her dream has come true, and her journey begins.
Traveling down the Nepalese mountain and across the border into India is at once both exciting and frightening. Lakshmi, whose mountain life has been nothing but poverty and hard work, marvels at the sights and sounds of city life. Trains, buses, cars, and trucks amaze her. There are crowds of people and shops as far as the eye can see.
Lakshmi arrives at her destination. She is told she will be working for a woman she is to call Auntie Mumtaz. Prepared to work hard and earn her keep, Lakshmi is shocked to discover what her real duties will be. She is thrust into the arms of an old man with onion breath. He kisses her and begins to demand the unthinkable. Terrified, Lakshmi runs. Auntie Mumtaz orders her capture and locks her in a room. After days of starvation, beatings, and cruel treatment, Lakshmi realizes she will need to cooperate to survive.
Patricia McCormick uses a blunt and direct narrative style to present Lakshmi's horrific experiences. The story is heartbreaking, yet uplifting, as Lakshmi shows courage and determination to maintain her identity and survive her ordeal. Readers will hold Lakshmi in their thoughts long after finishing her story.
1 member(s) found this review helpful.
I couldn't stop reading this book, it forced me to read it in one sitting. I was so worried for the character. My husband asked me if I ever read "happy books." I just told him that I was hoping for a happy ending. This book reminded me that there are horrible things happening in the world that most people don't know about and don't care to know about. If you like this book I would also recommend watching the documentary Born into Brothels. The documentary is not nearly as vivid as this book.