Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Lakshimi lives with her family in Nepal.  Her family is very poor, and her stepfather cannot work and squanders most of the family's money by gambling.  Lakshimi dreams of going to the city to work and being able to send money home to her family.  She thinks her chance has come when her stepfather arranges her to leave her village.  However, it turns out Lakshimi has not been sent to work as a maid to a wealthy women.  She has been sold into prostitution.  Thirteen-year-old Lakshimi faces horrors she never dreamed of, as she tries not to lose hope of someday obtaining her freedom.

This was absolutely heartbreaking.  I was becoming very upset while reading it.  Lakshimi is just a character, but her story has happened to far too many real little girls.

Before Lakshimi is sold, we are given a picture of the world she lives in.  Her father has died, and her mother remarries, because, as she says, "Even a man who gambles away what little we have on a fancy hat and a new coat is better than no man at all."  And this is true for the life they live.  Even though Lakshimi, her mother and baby brother would be better off without someone wasting the little money they have, such a thing is unthinkable.

Lakshimi has never left Nepal, and has no idea that she isn't going to work as a maid until she actually arrives at the brothel.  She has been sold multiple times by the time she gets there.  First her stepfather sells her to a women who searches for girls, then the women sells her to another man, then the man finally sells her to a brothel.  Because Lakshimi fights when she first understands what's happening, she is drugged repeatedly and men are sent in to her to rape her while she is semi-conscious.

Lakshimi is smart and can read and write a little and is quite good with numbers.  She works out how many men she will need to have sex with before she can buy her freedom.  But the woman who runs the brothel tells Lakshimi her calculations are wrong.  She has to subtract money for the food she eats, the bed she sleeps in, the clothes she wears and many other things.  It is hopeless; she will never have enough to buy her own freedom.

The brothel owner tells the girls many stories so they won't try to run away.  Since most of the girls are uneducated and have never been out in the world, there is no reason for them to disbelieve.  They are told that Americans sometimes come promising to help them, but then they strip them and beat them and make them run naked through the street, so whenever there is a raid, all the girls run and hide rather than trying to be seen to be taken out of the brothel.

This was really an amazing book, although hard to read.  It's written in Lakshimi's voice, in simple sentences that go along with her level of education.  It is not an easy book to read though.

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