Thank you so very much to Harlequin for considering me for the 2020 Spring Reads Blog tour! Don’t these books look so intriguing?? I can’t wait to read more of these books and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you.
After fleeing an arranged marriage as a fifteen year old to an abusive older man, Lakshmi Shastri steals away alone from her rural village to Jaipur. Here, against odds, she carves out a living for herself as a henna artist, and friend and confidante to wealthy, upper caste women. Surviving by her wits and talents, she shares her knowledge and keeps their secrets in a delicate balancing act amid the changing 1950s social mores brought about by Indian Independence. Vulnerable to opinion and innuedo, at any point her intentions might be misunderstood, and she could fall prey to a damaged reputation or worse. Still Lakshmi manages to save to build a house with the dream of bringing her aging parents here to live with her and redeem herself in their eyes. Then one day her ex-husband arrives in town seeking her out with a girl in tow, a sister she did not know she had. Her sister is both passionate and reckless by nature, and all of a sudden the caution that Lakshmi has carefully cultivated is threatened, along with her livelihood. But she preseveres, and in doing so manages to lift up the others around her with her success.
Lakshmi’s tenacity and spirit see her join the ranks of other brave women of historical fiction, such as Farough Farrokhzad in Jasmin Darznik’s Song of a Captive Bird.With gorgeous prose and urgent themes, the novel will captivate readers of Shobha Rao’s Girls Burn Brighter, and those who seek a narrative both compelling and necessary.
Alka Joshi is a graduate of Stanford University and received her M.F.A. from the California College of the Arts. She has worked as an advertising copywriter, a marketing consultant, and an illustrator. Alka was born in India, in the state of Rajasthan. Her family came to the United States when she was nine, and she now lives on California’s Monterey Peninsula with her husband and two misbehaving pups. The Henna Artist is her first novel. Visit her website and blog at thehennaartist.com
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley, Harlequin Trade Publishing and Mira Books for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
That line gave me shivers. And it was the first lines in the first chapter, after a very heartbreaking prologue about a 13 year old girl that was basically shunned by her village because of the actions of her parents and mysterious sister that apparently disappeared out of nowhere…. but she didn’t even know she had an older sister? I was so freaking upset about that, but then I think about the time period that this book takes place in, and it kind of “makes sense” but it’s still not okay, you know what I mean?
This book legit broke my heart just getting through it. I was so upset with what Lakshmi went through, not just as a child when she was left as an orphan but as an child bride with her husband. The abuse that she went through with him… I just think about how the concept of child brides aren’t illegal or enforced as illegal worldwide, and it just hurts to see an example of just how bad things can be for a girl in this situation that she doesn’t even have a choice in the matter.
So while Lakshmi’s origins weren’t good at all, I was so freaking happy to see that she was able to escape this abuse and really make a life for herself that she was happy to have, and be proud of her progress despite the hardships that she had to endure. I just really wanted everything to go well for her after everything, but of course that’s not how books work so there had to be some conflict involved.
I think that this book will really make you stop and reflect on the circumstances of your life as it stands currently, and show that there will be some times where you really have to pull everything together to take matters into your own hands, and learn how to heal from a past that was never meant to give you any form of success or love. It hurts, it will make you cry, it will make you angry, but those feelings will put things into perspective for you, and I think this will be a read that you won’t be able to stop thinking about.