Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Catherine Kirby - Sari Caste

Sari Caste

and Paperback



Product Description (from Amazon)
 A courageous voyage through destitution, intrigue and murder.

Manasa is abandoned by the man she should marry. He marries her sister instead. Meanwhile Manasa finds herself pregnant with his child. She flees her Bengali village wondering where to go. Eventually, she finds herself wandering the streets of Calcutta. Without money or food, life is a daily struggle. Finally, she is taken on by a brothel. She is desperately unhappy until she meets a different sort of man. This man she marries in secret and together they plan her escape from the brothel.

Murder, corruption, and intrigue threaten to swallow up the new life they attempt to establish in the beautiful hill country of Darjeeling.

About the Author (from Amazon author page)
Writing has always been a passion for me. I started with short stories, poems and haikus and finally found myself writing a novel. It was exciting to see it grow and take shape. I had no idea where the story would take me. I just found my starting point and followed the muse. The research was fascinating, time consuming but absorbing. Once I reached those magical words 'The End', I was overjoyed. Then the real work of editing and rewriting began. Once I'd finished my first novel, I was keen to write another. My novels do not follow the same genre but do deal with the intricacies of relationships - what makes them go wrong and what, if anything, can save them from destruction. I hope my readers will enjoy the results.
This biography provided by the author or their representative.

O.Scarlett Review by Tenya

The description of this book grabbed my attention because the subject matter is something which interests me.  I advocate for necessary changes in this world to stop the exploitation of women and children around the globe.  I hope to do this by bringing awareness to these matters in entertaining stories, the novels I write.  Ms. Kirby has done the same in Sari Caste, a contemporary story set in the country of India. 

The reader is quickly drawn into the traumatic world of Manasa, one of four daughters unwanted by their father.  (Culturally, India still values the birth of male offspring over that of girls, and I’m reminded of an article I read recently about Indian girls and women changing their names in mass groups because the names they had been given by their parents meant “unwanted.”)  The father is abusive toward Manasa’s mother, blaming her for a lack of sons in the family.  He’s a drunkard who takes every advantage to marry off his daughters as cheaply as possible, hoping their required dowries won’t deplete the coffers he has failed to fill.

Locked into working long hours to provide a dowry which will allow her younger sister to marry the man Manasa loves, the drama of this family’s life captures the attention and compassion of the reader.  Finally, Manasa is forced to flee her country village with her newborn child and seek out a new, and hopefully better, life in the city.  But, the city is not all she dreamed it would be.  She soon discovers that her dreams may end in starvation for her and her baby.  The only true friends she finds are “pavement dwellers,” street people, who experience tragedy heaped upon tragedy.

Desperate to provide for her own child and her friends, Manasa takes a job in a brothel.  Eventually, her sister escapes to the city and joins her.  As Manasa and Kajal struggle to survive their circumstances, one would think it could not get any worse, but it does.  Discovering that the orphan children living at the brothel are being exploited in the worst way by the owners, Manasa determines she must save herself and anyone else she possibly can.  The bulk of the book deals with the struggles she endures and her efforts to escape a life of prostitution and slavery.

For such a horribly difficult subject, I cannot imagine that anyone could have handled the presentation of the situation into which young Manasa is forced, out of necessity, any more tactfully than this author has done.  This story is hard to read, simply because of the subject matter, but Catherine Kirby has written it in a compelling way that forces the reader to continue to the last page, no matter how horrific the lives of the characters become.

Sari Caste is a work of fiction, but the heart-wrenching situations and tragic circumstances of Manasa and the other characters are far too real for many people living in India today.  Yes, today, not one hundred years ago!  Your support of organizations that strive to help women escape this kind of hopeless lifestyle is important.  Often stores or internet retailers who offer Fair Trade merchandise will carry items produced by people like Manasa who have been rescued from the horrors of forced prostitution, or prevented them from choosing it as a desperate means of survival.   The jewelry, handbags and other lovely items produced by these people is astoundingly beautiful!

Is there victory and escape in this story?  Truthfully, the end left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.  Every man in this book ends up being a total louse!  I resolve my dissatisfaction by remembering that true liberty is having the freedom to mess up your own life rather than letting others do it for you.  It is a most compelling and heart-wrenching story that I recommend to adults who like some real 'meat' in their fiction.

Notes:
As previously stated, the subject matter of this book is difficult.  Obviously, there’s going to be sex involved because much of the story takes place in a brothel.  There are descriptions of certain situations, but they are not overly explicit.  The events are clear without becoming vulgar.

The book is written in first person which is not my favorite.  I really did become tired of the word “I” but this is probably just a personal pet peeve of mine. If you are not a great fan of first person narrative, be prepared when you do read this book.  Don’t let it keep you from reading! The story is compelling enough to overlook such a simple thing, and truthfully, Catherine pulls it off very well.  After a few chapters I did not even notice anymore.

Genre/Theme:  India, Human Trafficking/Slavery, Drama
Reading Level: (by appropriateness) ADULT – because of subject matter
Profanity:  NONE – I cannot remember any.
Sexuality:  BLATANT – subject matter could not be presented without it, but it is never vulgar or overly explicit
Other:
There are many tragic things in this book including children starving to death, murder, rape, and the general horrors of the exploitation of women and children in the forced sex trade.  Several very unwholesome characters appear, and their behavior is characteristically lecherous.
Expect this story to shock you!  It should. 

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