A powerful and hauntingly unforgettable novel, Sold by Patricia McCormick depicts a young woman’s disturbing journey into the red-light district in Calcutta. In the novel, Lakshmi is a thirteen year old girl from Nepal who gets sold into prostitution. She goes willingly, under the false impression that her step-father is sending her into the city to work as a maid. She does this for the simple luxury of putting a tin roof over her mother’s home, chasing the possibility of a life beyond hunger.
Lakshmi’s story is told in a series of short anecdotes- some light, some tragic, and some leaving the reader unsure of how to feel, each one with a heartbreakingly poignant ending. We are with Lakshmi through every step of the way, from the moment she finds out what her true job is, to the moment she has the answer to her prayers, quite literally, in the palm of her hands.
We are witnesses to a young woman questioning her worth, the truth, and humanity itself.
However, she is as much a voyeur to those inside the brothel as we are with her. Lakshmi describes her encounters with the other young women around her with benevolence and tenderness, and at times with a sense of pity, until she realizes that she’s not much different than them.
Lakshmi’s imagination and curiosity are persistent throughout the novel, and in a way, it is her form of escape. There are moments when she’s unable to discern dreams from reality, at times referring to her own reflection as another person completely. Although Sold depicts this niche of sex trafficking, it goes far, far deeper.
McCormick effectively ties in religious patriarchy and the subjugation of women. I believe that, by the end of it, the reader will have a better understanding of how a society’s oppressive constructs can play a massive role in the unnecessary and dangerous existence of unethical and immoral organizations such as child sex-trafficking.
Though this book is a quick read, it doesn’t take away from the human experience that comes with each page. Lakshmi’s wisdom, strength, and spirit will be with me indefinitely, along with all the women for whom this novel was written in honor.
“If your husband asks you to wash his feet, you must do as he says,
then put a bit of the water in your mouth.
I ask Ama why. ‘Why,’ I say, ‘must women suffer so?’
‘This has always been our fate,’ she says.
‘Simply to endure,’ she says, ‘is to triumph.’”
– Sold by Patricia McCormick