The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi


Ah, the main character is named Lakshmi. I immediately thought of Sold by Patricia McCormick, and that novel was beautifully heartbreaking.

The reader meets a young teen girl abandoned and figuring out her next move. Radha’s voice in the prologue is strong to the point of fierce and entirely different from that of her older sister, Lakshmi, that she has yet to meet. Radha is considered bad luck because of her long-gone sister’s abandonment of her husband.

“In India, individual humiliation did not exist. Humiliation spread, as easily as oil on wax paper, to the entire family…”

From the beginning, Lakshmi’s success feels tentative. Like at any moment she could lose everything. She wants more than anything to pay back her parents for running away from her husband and humiliating them. Instead she will atone for her perceived sins by caring for Radha.
The insight into the 1950s society, caste system, and beautiful culture of India made better fall in love with this book. The characters are nuanced and real. One moment I’m in love with a character and the next moment I want to throttle them.

“Independence changed everything. Independence changed nothing.”

Lakshmi is incredibly smart, brave, and intense. She’s been building her business and home for 10 years and then her younger sister shows up with her estranged husband and Lakshmi’s world is turned upside down. I adore the many of the extraordinary developed secondary characters. And I was happy and touched by the well though out ending.

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