Whoa. This book is a must read. Must read. Laidlaw takes her experiences living in Mumbai, working with sex trade workers and their very-likely-to-be-in-the-industry-too children, and infuses it into the stories in the text. The boundary between truth and realistic fiction is likely more blurred than I know.
Author Mindy McGinnes interviewed S.J.Laidlaw earlier this year on McGinnes and posted that interview on her blog Writer, Writers, Pants on Fire. One quote from that interview seems so succinct I include it here: I decided to write a story that shows how suffering and sexual violence cut across class and culture. It's told in the voices of two girls. Noor is the daughter of a sex worker. She and her younger siblings live in a brothel in Kamathipura. Grace is the daughter of an international banker who has lived the nomadic life of a Third Culture Kid. While Grace is from a wealthy and privileged background, both girls experience adversity in different ways.
To extend that a bit, 14-year-old Noor sleeps under her mother's bed. She knows that men come into the room, a room shared with other women who work in the brothel. She cares for her brother and sister most of the time, trying to stay out of the way of the bullying owner and sort-of manager. 15-year-old Grace meets Noor with great resistance but ends up finding a surprising friend whom she wants to trust. But trust for both girls is fleeting, as we can imagine. By the time you realize what is happening, you will be so roped in the storyline, know that you will not put the book down until you are finished.
This is a challenging read. The way women are treated in India for one (no, I will not derail my thoughts to how women are treated on other land masses on our planet) is abysmal. Laidlaw does not skirt the issue here; rather she flat-out leans into the Indian sex trade, exposing one girls' potential experience in a true-to-life fashion I have not often read about. Kudos to her shining light on that awful way of living and being controlled. Kudos more for writing this book. One of my favorite of the year so far....