This is of the more enjoyable books I have read for our PS book club. The setting takes place a few years after the independence of India* (1955-ish) in Jaipur, India and is about a woman seeking to break from the norms of her culture to find the freedom to chose her own destiny.
*August 15, 1947
"Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.
Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does." - Goodreads
About the Author
Alka Joshi was born in India and raised in the U.S. since the age of nine. She has a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts. At age 62, Joshi released her debut novel, The Henna Artist, which immediately became a NYT bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon Bookclub pick, was Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and is being developed for a TV series. The sequel, The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, premieres June 2021.
This story is an imagining of the life the author's mother could have lived, had she not entered an arranged marriage when she was a teenager.
"An] eloquent debut…Joshi’s evocative descriptions capture India’s sensory ambience (horse-drawn tongas, pungent cooking fires and incense, and colorful saris), drawing readers deep into her moving story. Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.” --Christian Science Monitor
“Joshi has constructed a bewitching glimpse into the past with a tough heroine well worth cheering on.”-- Booklist
For those who listen to audible books, the author provides a PDF to include the characters, glossary of terms, the story of henna, caste system in India and recipes on henna paste, batti balls, and rabri!
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About The Host: Establish sustainable rural general medical and diabetic screening and treatment clinics in Southern India with American and Indian health professionals.
Website Link: http://projectstarfishindia.org/