I bought Sold from Pilgrims Book House in Kathmandu for my 24 hour journey back home. I started the book in a courtyard café, where we planned to spend the day before catching our flight in the afternoon. I finished it on the first flight that evening.
Sold is simply, but poetically written and extremely absorbing which is why it took me no time at all to read. However, the topics it covers are by no means easy. Twelve year old Lakshmi lives with her mother, baby brother and step father in a small village in Nepal.
It is a simple life with lots of difficulties, but she is much loved by her mother and together, they find joys in the smaller things in life, when they can get it. Eventually, when money becomes too tight and the family’s debts become to much, Lakshmi’s step father arranges for her to be taken to the city to become a maid. Her mother is devastated, but Lakshmi is proud to be helping her family and travelling away from the small village. Mostly, she is glad that her family will finally be able to afford a new tin roof.
Lakshmi’s naivety as she travels to the ‘city’ is heartbreaking. The reader knows what she does not, that she is not on her way to be a maid for a rich family, but that she has been sold into the sex trade. When she arrives in India, her confusion very slowly leads to disbelief when she realises what has happened. This is one of the worst moments of the book. As we helplessly read on, we follow Lakshmi through such horrors. Through tears and torture, she finally learns to smile, and even laugh, again. There’s hope in this story, but it’s sometimes hard to see that through all the despair.
This powerful book, written in free verse from Lakshmi’s perspective was not quite what I was expecting. It is a shocking reminder of how cruel the world can be. Strangely enough, the part of Sold that shocked me the most was the way that certain cultures view women. This paragraph made my hair stand on end, “A son will always be a son, they say. But a girl is like a goat. Good as long as she gives you milk and butter. But not worth crying over when it’s time to make a stew.”
Sold is quick to read, but will take a long time to forget. To buy it, click on the picture below.