In this National Book Award finalist, 13-year-old Lakshmi lives in a hut, perched on a mountainside in the Himalayas. She loves the stunning beauty of the mountain's "long purple shadows," the tallow pumpkin blossoms that close in the evening as the white jasmine open. On nights when the moon is full, the hillside is bathed in a "magical white light, the glow of the perpetual snows that blanket the mountaintops."
This beauty, however, contrasts with the ugliness of Lakshmi's fate as a young woman in that world. Children's lives are precarious, but girls' lives are expendable. Lakshmi's lazy stepfather does little work and spends his days gambling away money playing cards at the tea shop. The family is unprepared when monsoon rains come and wash away any hope of good crops and a better future. Lakshmi finds herself in Calcutta in the Happiness House, where she is forced into prostitution. At first, she believes she can do this despicable work and pay off her debt and return home, only to realize later that believing is stupidity, hope an affliction.
In Patricia McCormick's beautifully crafted free verse novel, each poem is a hotline to the mind and voice of Lakshmi, and accumulations of detail delineate her circumstances and her inclination toward hope. Readers might see in her the fate of other survivors. When she looks in the mirror and sees a corpse, she might remind readers of Elie Wiesel at the end of Night, witnessing the same reflection after his time in concentration camps. When Lakshmi is told, "If they find out you can read and write, they will think you are planning to escape," the story of Frederick Douglass learning to read might come to mind. And when she realizes she will always be in debt, always cheated out of her earnings, hers is a sharecropper's experience, her own body the bartered crop.
When Lakshkmi asks her mother, "Why must women suffer so?" her mother replies, "Simply to endure is to triumph," a resounding reminder of survivors of slavery and genocide in cities all over the world. Lakshmi's story of survival is told in poetry that will reach right into her readers' souls.
Dean Schneider teaches middle school English. Copyright 2006 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Spring
McCormick's searing novel, told in a series of poetic vignettes, gives voice to Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old girl from Nepal who is forced into prostitution in India. Lakshmi's education at the hands of Happiness House's cruel madam is brutal. Readers will admire Lakshmi's bravery and be relieved when she risks trusting the American man who promises to take her to a clean, safe place. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2006 #5
McCormick's searing novel, told in a series of poetic vignettes, gives voice to a child forced into prostitution in India. Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old girl from a poor mountain village in Nepal, thinks she is being hired as a maid when her stepfather "trades" her to a woman for eight hundred rupees. Thus begins a journey to the city, during which Lakshmi's naivetŽ becomes heartbreakingly apparent. At one point her new "auntie" seems to sell her to a man who says she must call him her husband. As the payment changes hands, she thinks, "I do not know what they have agreed to. / But I do know this: / he gives her nearly enough money to buy a water buffalo." But Uncle Husband turns out to be just a middleman shepherding Lakshmi to Happiness House, where the colorful dresses, jewelry, and makeup worn by the girls there lead her to wonder if "Happiness House is where the movie stars live." Of course she soon learns the folly of this first impression. Lakshmi's education into prostitution at the hands of Happiness House's cruel madam, Mumtaz, is brutal. Readers will admire Lakshmi's bravery and be enormously relieved when she risks trusting the American man with "the pink skin of a pig" who promises to take her to a "clean," safe place. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2006 September #1
In her village in Nepal, Lakshmi's life is more than difficult and requires her to endure hunger, harsh weather and poverty. When she is sold to an itinerant "Auntie," she thinks she'll be working as a maid in the city. She's determined to excel, even though she can't imagine the place. She arrives in a brothel, working in guaranteed slavery until she is broken or dies, astonished at the charges beyond what she could possibly earn for everything she touches. The harshness of her life in this new country of India, feeling torn from all that is familiar, comes close to crushing her, yet she endures. The tiny moments of peace, learning the words in books, the friendships and respect that develop provide a relief for readers even as admiration for Lakshmi's strength and capacity for sorrow grows. Written as a prose poem, Sold focuses on the essential question of whether it is possible to trust when all that one has trusted has been proven untrustworthy. McCormick provides readers who live in safety and under protection of the law with a vivid window into a harsh and cruel world-one most would prefer to pretend doesn't exist. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection - January 2007
Sold is another outstanding realistic fiction title by Patty McCormick set in today's world. Lakshmi is a 13-year- old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. She is sold by her stepfather to cover his debts. Lakshmi is led to believe that she will work for a wealthy woman but in reality it is a ruse; she is sold into prostitution in Calcutta. In the never ending circle of slavery prostitution Lakshmi is led to believe that she can pay off her family's debt, but soon learns that she will never be allowed to leave. Readers can feel Lakshmi's hope, pain, and determination, but can also feel her emotions of joy and happiness. Then the day comes when she must make a decision to risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life. Sold is written as a series of vignettes narrated by Lakshmi. The chapter headings also provide another story. This is a very moving and emotional story and readers will not be able to put it down. McCormick traveled to India and Nepal to research this book. One person's humanity to another person keeps Lakshmi's hope alive amidst her new life. Recommended. Terry Young, Library Media Specialist, West Jefferson High School, Harvey, Louisiana © 2007 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 August #4
This hard-hitting novel told in spare free verse poems exposes the plight of a 13-year-old Nepali girl sold into sexual slavery. Through Lakshmi's innocent first-person narrative, McCormick (Cut ) reveals her gradual awakening to the harshness of the world around her. Even in their poverty-stricken rural home, Lakshmi finds pleasure in the beauty of the Himalayan mountains, the sight of Krishna, her betrothed, and the cucumbers she lovingly tends, then sells at market. After a monsoon wipes out their crops, her profligate stepfather sells Lakshmi to an "auntie" bound for the city. During her journey, the girl acquires a visual and verbal vocabulary of things she has never seen before: electric lights, a TV. Soon a hard-won sense of irony invades her narrative, too. Early on, a poem entitled "Everything I Need to Know" marks her step into womanhood (after her first menstrual cycle); later, "Everything I Need to Know Now" lists her rules as an initiated prostitute. In her village, Lakshmi had rebelliously purchased her first Coca-Cola for her mother, after her stepfather sold her; later, in Calcutta, she overhears two johns talking and realizes, "the price of a bottle of Coca-Cola at Bajai Sita's store./ That is what he paid for [a turn with] me." The author beautifully balances the harshness of brothel life with the poignant relationships among its residents; especially well-drawn characters include the son of one of the prostitutes, who teaches Lakshmi to read and speak some English and Hindi, and clever Monica, who earns her freedom but gets sent back by her shamed family. Readers will admire Lakshmi's grit and intelligence, and be grateful for a ray of hope for this memorable heroine at book's end. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)[Page 55]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up As this heartbreaking story opens, 13-year-old Lakshmi lives an ordinary life in Nepal, going to school and thinking of the boy she is to marry. Then her gambling-addicted stepfather sells her into prostitution in India. Refusing to â€œbe with men,â€ she is beaten and starved until she gives in. Written in free verse, the girlâ€™s first-person narration is horrifying and difficult to read. â€œIn between, men come./They crush my bones with their weight./They split me open./Then they disappear.â€ â€œI hurt./I am torn and bleeding where the men have been.â€ The spare, unadorned text matches the barrenness of Lakshmiâ€™s new life. She is told that if she works off her familyâ€™s debt, she can leave, but she soon discovers that this is virtually impossible. When a boy who runs errands for the girls and their clients begins to teach her to read, she feels a bit more alive, remembering what it feels like to be the â€œnumber one girl in class again.â€ When an American comes to the brothel to rescue girls, Lakshmi finally gets a sense of hope. An authorâ€™s note confirms what readers fear: thousands of girls, like Lakshmi in this story, are sold into prostitution each year. Part of McCormickâ€™s research for this novel involved interviewing women in Nepal and India, and her depth of detail makes the characters believable and their misery palpable. This important book was written in their honor.Alexa Sandmann, Kent State University, OH[Page 211]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.