Synopsis: Corban Addison leads readers on a chilling, eye-opening journey into Mumbai‘s seedy underworld–and the nightmare of two orphaned girls swept into the international sex trade. When a tsunami rages through their coastal town in India, 17-year-old Ahalya Ghai and her 15-year-old sister Sita are left orphaned and homeless. With almost everyone they know suddenly erased from the face of the earth, the girls set out for the convent where they attend school. They are abducted almost immediately and sold to a Mumbai brothel owner, beginning a hellish descent into the bowels of the sex trade. Halfway across the world, Washington, D.C., attorney Thomas Clarke faces his own personal and professional crisis-and makes the fateful decision to pursue a pro bono sabbatical working in India for an NGO that prosecutes the subcontinent’s human traffickers. There, his conscience awakens as he sees firsthand the horrors of the trade in human flesh, and the corrupt judicial system that fosters it. Learning of the fate of Ahalya and Sita, Clarke makes it his personal mission to rescue them, setting the stage for a riveting showdown with an international network of ruthless criminals.
First Line: The sea was quiet at first light on the morning their world fell apart.
Random Quote: She spent the afternoon mopping and sweeping and scrubbing thick, oily grime off a multitude of surfaces in the kitchen. The woman was a cruel taskmaster; nothing Sita did was right. She rubbed so hard on the upper surface of the stove tha her fingers began to lose sensation. Her nails chipped on exposed edges, and the rags and scalding water burned her hands. By the time the restaurant opened at six that evening, she was bone-tired and famished. The woman banished Sita to the flat and gave her a broom and a dustpan.
Review: I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from A Walk Across the Sun and I’ll admit that it was slow in the beginning and not really easy to get into. By page 70, however, I couldn’t put it down. The plight of the many people, both adults and children, who are trafficked in various ways is appalling. In telling the story of two sisters, one who is raped in the brothel that they are sent to, the other sent to France and then America as a cleaning slave, Mr. Addison really illuminates all the various possibilities that happen.
The subplot involving an American attorney whose life is falling apart was also very good. It was especially interesting to watch as he began to discover that his life as an attorney destined for the federal bench (like his father) wasn’t fulfilling. By traveling to India to work for a group trying to rescue and rehabilitate young girls from the brothels of Mumbai, he learns that fulfilling work is what it’s all about. Through his involvement with the search to find Sita, the girl sent so many different places, enables him to see his life differently and to reconnect with his wife, Priya.
Yes, the arc of the story is pretty improbable – the likelihood of finding one little girl across three continents is slim, but this is a story and it’s good to have a happy ending sometimes.
I learned a lot from this book and it managed to tell me these stories without descending into utter darkness – yes, it’s grim, but not so grim that its painful to read. Fast-paced once it gets started, filled with charming characters of all kinds (both good and bad) and all of their competing agendas, this is a read that kept me up nights. Recommended.
Publishing Information: Silver Oak – January 3, 2012
Format: Printed Matter
FTC Disclosure: Advance copy from the publisher for review
Reading Challenges: Eclectic Reading Challenge 2012, Mount TBR Challenge 2012, Mystery and Suspense Challenge