Some favorite quotes (would copy-paste the whole book if it wasn’t unethical)
“Santoshi couldn’t tell me where she lived, but the very polite young man whose armpit was hosting my ear offered translation services…” p. 12
“So Santoshi has been moving from shelter to shelter for what? Thirty years?”
“How old do you think she is?”
“She will be thirty next month.”
Up to this point in the discussion Kiria had seemed to be handling the story well. But at the last statement her eyes widened and her head jerked back. “What happened to her teeth?” p. 24
Brief summary: Kiria is Canadian American and works for a big company. By a surprising (and unpleasant) turn of events, she meets Santoshi, who is a cleaning lady, in Chennai, India. Together they will build a homeless shelter for poor working Indian women…
One of my favorite books about India, written by a non-native, was THE CITY OF JOY, by Dominique Lapierre (1988). The story was adapted for the big screen a few years later. Let me be honest: THE CITY OF JOY was actually on top of my list. SISTERS OF THE SARI, the beginning novel of Brenda L. Baker, just dethroned it.
Even though this is an adult fiction, I chose to review SISTERS OF THE SARI on Multiculturalism Rocks! because it’s the type of books that teenage girls are likely to love sinking their teeth into–we all know they’re not waiting to turn eighteen to wander in the adult fiction part of a bookstore or library, right? Now why would they enjoy SISTERS OF THE SARI? Because Kiria, one of the main characters, is someone they can look up to. She is inspiring as a successful and ambitious woman. She is an entrepreneur, a CEO. She is real–well, she, um, has a “big mouth,” if I may say. She is a character so disarmingly charming that her age, her flaws, don’t matter. Kiria has you laugh (hysterically), cry (inconspicuously), and wish the book would never end.
Then there is her newfound friend, Santoshi, who couldn’t be more different from her. Santoshi might more or less be half of Kiria’s age. She is a former slave, is uneducated, and barely speaks English. She’s also homeless.
There you have it: major cultural differences, language barrier, opposite spectra when it comes to social status; yet these two women will bond in the most unexpected and inspiring way, defying all odds, proving that really, friendship knows NO borders, and making you believe the impossible can happen, to the point of challenging one to feel hopeful about a gleam future.
There are three aspects of the book that I enjoyed the most: it dealing with social issues, namely the condition of poor working women in India through topics such as slavery and human trafficking; the literal Indian journey it takes the reader on–the descriptions are striking; the multiple point of views, which include the situation as seen from Santoshi’s perspective.
Warning to future readers: You won’t wanna put it down if you read it before bedtime. Take it from someone who knows.
NAL Accent, a division of Penguin Group (USA), is generously giving away two copies of SISTERS OF THE SARI: One to a Multiculturalism Rocks’ reader, and another one to benefit a high school library. More information will be provided on tomorrow’s post.
For more information about the author, Brenda L. Baker, tune in tomorrow to read her interview!
To read the first chapter of SISTERS OF THE SARI, click here!