by Amita Trasi
Reviewed by SA
Fair warning: this book is a difficult read. The subject matter is heavy and painful, so there are content warnings for rape, abuse, and violence, to say the least. It will also frequently bring you to tears. Yet the story is one of love and determination, spanning years and breaking your heart. I absolutely loved it.
Tara has returned to India, to her old apartment in Bombay, the scene of the kidnapping of her friend Mukta eleven years previously. Mukta was a village girl, daughter of a prostitute and fated to become one herself, who was brought in to their household by Tara’s father when she was no older than ten. The girls grew up together, spending five years blossoming their friendship, before the fateful night when Mukta was abducted. Now Tara is determined to find her, and will do so at any cost. The novel spans thirty years, taking you to the past, the present, and pushing into the future as Tara digs up clues to her friend’s fate… as well as secrets surrounding her own family.
First and foremost I loved the lyrical nature of this novel. Trasi has an incredible style, and manages to bring to life the most gorgeous images of India – as well as the, well, not so gorgeous. She weaves local terms into her text, which at first I found a little confusing, as there was not always enough context to grasp their meaning, until I found the lexicon in the back. She truly brought India to life, for better of for worse.
The bond between Tara and Mukta was one of the factors that kept me reading this book so intently, even through the incredibly terrifying moments. The character development through the course of the plot was grounded and human, which made the two of them gain dimension and depth. The other characters in their lives sometimes lacked the spark that brought them out of the page, but with the two young women front and center, the focus is where it should be.
The horror in the novel is a serious wake up call. The brutality of human trafficking is alive in India, and the torment Mukta is living through would be something I wished could not be real. The author describes in vivid detail the living conditions of these women, the horror of what they have to go through every day, and the definite knowledge that there is no way out. These were the most difficult parts of the novel to read, and it’s enough to bring us to tears.
There were definitely a few things I found weird. For example, Tara’s cash flow. We’re told she has been working three jobs back in America, yet she finds a somewhat endless supply of cash for bribes in India. She also somehow affords to take months out of work to try and find Mukta and doesn’t seem to be working in India either. Maybe this is just a detail, but it took away from the realism that was otherwise so convincing.
Another little weird thing was the quotes. Between chapter, you would get a quote from either Tara or Mukta (sometimes to signify a change of perspective or point of view) which just felt a little out of place. The form of the novel does not call for it: the book is not an interview, a journal, or letters. What are the quotes doing there? They really felt out of place.
Read this book at your own peril: you will find love and friendship, but also pain and suffering. You will read true horror but also true hope. The Color of Our Sky is expected to be published on June 30th.