Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Walk Across the Sun

I just started a book club with some friends and our first title is A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison. Three perspectives are interwoven to illustrate the reality and devastation of human trafficking. The story is fictional and dramatic, but not once does it overstate the terror or cruelty of this global scourge. I say this because it is a story, with plot twists and a happy ending that I'm sure are unlikely for the vast majority of victims of human trafficking and sex slavery.

A quick overview: Two teenaged sisters in India, both minors, are left orphaned and stranded after a tsunami wipes away their home and family. While traveling to their boarding school for sanctuary, they are abducted and sold as sex slaves. Across the globe, a high paid lawyer in DC is forced to take a sabbatical, due to politics in his law firm. He decides to take a year long fellowship in India with a non-profit that rescues sex slaves and prosecutes their offenders.

Addison adds many elements to his tale that are perhaps unnecessary given his subject matter. I agree that it is a novel and the characters should have backstory and depth. But there seems to be a disproportionate amount of time spent on the lawyer from DC, Thomas Clark.  I learned too much about backstory, and not enough about his character. Clark is cast as the hero but I don't see it.

It follows that I think that there should be more about the two sisters. While I believe they were underrepresented in the book as a whole, I enjoyed their characters and the portrayal of their love for each other. Too much about the sisters suffering would have rendered it meaningless. As it stands it is shocking and brutal, and we see enough violence to comprehend the desensitization process. I also appreciated the Indian myths that were incorporated. They added a level of truth and metaphor to the sisters story that was lacking or forced in Clark's perspective.

I would have loved to learn more about some of the characters that are sidelined in the book - other sex slaves, or the lawyers and policemen fighting trafficking and corruption in India. In the end I though this was a decent novelization of an extremely important subject. The pacing and elements of suspense meant I was hooked until the last page. I probably would have been just as happy with a non-fiction book on human trafficking, or India, as both are fascinating subjects.

I already started The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander as my non-fiction fix. She writes on how the criminal justice and penal system replaced slavery in the United States. I already love it. And next, more about India, in The Beautiful Forevers, a non-fiction narrative about a slum in India. I love books, they are like reality on crack.

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