Sold opens in a poor but quiet and peaceful village in the mountains of Nepal where Lakshmi, the thirteen year old protagonist, struggles with poverty, hoping for a solid tin roof, but nonetheless enjoying the little pleasures that she has: her pet goat Tali, the gentle dry wind from the river, the grass, her patch of nicknamed cucumbers. Lakshmi is happy with her mother and baby brother, but her stepfather is a thoughtless man who gambles endlessly and spends all the family’s savings to pay his debts. The situation reaches its peak when he sells Lakshmi into sexual slavery, lying to her that she is going to the city to work as a maid.
The reader guesses the girl’s fate based on circumstance, but she is much more oblivious to it due to her innocence which makes the reading experience all the more disturbing. The novel is written in short vignettes — little journal-like snippets of Lakshmi’s observations. They are incredibly poetic but rather dry in detail, which may not satisfy everyone. I enjoyed the style because I felt it would be offensive if the novel were overly descriptive. The attention to disquieting details would reduce the realism of the story to a merely sensory, entertaining experience.
The novel is not an explicitly true story, but it is based on reality. Patricia McCormick travelled to Nepal and India to interview girls whose lives mirrored Lakshmi’s. The amalgamation of their individual stories brought Lakshmi to life. The stepfather was supposedly based on a man who sold his girlfriend for a motorcycle.
Sold brings awareness to an issue of today which is often ignored and lost among other issues that make the headlines. Despite its purpose, the novel does not feel like a preaching, rather a glance into the on-goings of the cruel brothel business through the eyes of one young girl.
I thought the novel was written in beautiful style and in a very tactful manner. It had its grip on me for a while but after the ending, it let go easily. Although I would recommend the novel to those interested, it is not an exceptional read in itself, and the issue it brings up overshadows it, which I guess is the ultimate purpose.