Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.
An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt—then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.
Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother’s words— Simply to endure is to triumph—and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision—will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?
Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.
This is the story of a 13-year old poor girl from Nepal who lives in a hut. Her and her mother are making due, but her stepfather gambles away the little money they have. He finally decides to send her off to make money cleaning houses in the city. This is what the girl, Lakshmi, and her mother believe and they have heard wonderful stories of the riches to be made and seen the benefit of those living close by who've done the same thing. However, the stepfather knows he's selling her off into prostitution.
What makes this story so powerful is the ignorance and innocence of Lakshmi. The reader sees everything from her perspective, almost like a diary. The story is written as a long string of vignettes. It is haunting and brings to life the reality of children sold into prostitution. The author visited this area and did extensive research before writing this book, which is what makes it so powerful and realistic.