Patricia McCormick once again takes inside the heart of a young girl with Sold. This time, though, Lakshmi lives on the other side of the world and suffers more than I can begin to imagine. Life is hard in her mountain village in Nepal, but Lakshmi has dreams to look forward to. She enjoys watching the shepherd boy she will one day marry if the crops every produce enough for her mother and stepfather to provide a dowry. But then rains wash away every last rice plant, leaving them with less than nothing. Her stepfather arranges for her to work in the city as a maid, and Lakshmi proudly heads into her future so she can provide for her family back home.
It was at this point that I found the reading to get difficult because I knew what was coming even if Lakshmi didn’t. I could hardly bear to see her lose her innocence once she finally made it to her destination and learned what her work really involved. In her innocence, Lakshmi is captivated by the new sights and sounds of the city, and her devastation upon reaching Happiness House is all the more brutal when it happens. Even though she fights against her fate, she has no choice (thanks to being drugged) but to follow the demands of Mumtaz, who rules the girls completely and utterly.
Even though life is horrible at Happiness House, Lakshmi does find moments of hope. Shahanna, one of the other girls, warns her of danger and explains how things work. All the girls enjoy escaping their harsh reality by watching television shows. The children, such as Harish, provide laughter as well as a reminder of all she has lost. Finally, she is offered hope for a way out, but will she have the courage to take it? Who can she trust after the lies she has been told?
Reading this book broke my heart because I know that Lakshmi’s story is all too true for too many girls across the world. Through telling this story in poetry, McCormick does not sugar coat the harsh reality, but she is able to transform it. I am not the same after reading it. I am looking forward to McCormick’s next book, Never Fall Down, which is based on the true story of a boy who survived the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge.