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THE HENNA ARTIST
March 3, 2020
Lakshmi escaped an abusive marriage when she was seventeen. Now, many years later, she’s living in Jaipur, India and is known for her beautiful henna artwork. Many rich women request her services—and, secretly, many request her herbal remedies for reproductive, ahem, challenges, too. She’s making good money for herself, and is very close to finally owning her own home. She feels stable and accomplished.
But when her estranged husband shows up with a thirteen-year old girl named Radha, who claims to be Lakshmi’s sister, suddenly things get complicated. She may be able to pay off her scheming husband, but Lakshmi feels protective of Radha and can’t abandon her. She agrees to take the girl in and to teach her the henna business. But Radha is young and has a flair for the dramatic. Now, not only is Lakshmi responsible for another person, but that person is creating quite a bit of drama in Lakshmi’s business. The question is, can Lakshmi balance her new responsibilities while continuing to ensure her future prosperity?
I read this book for a buddy read, and although I did enjoy it, I didn’t like it as much as my fellow book buddies. The story gets off to a slow start. Because it’s set in the 1950s, there is a level of formality that bored me. If it hadn’t been a buddy read, I probably would have DNFed around 20%. But I’m glad I persevered because the book did get better at the halfway point, and then it was smooth sailing from there.
The really cool thing about reading The Henna Artist in my group, though, was that we were able to chat with the author over Zoom. It was such a cool experience, and I have to say that author Alka Joshi is so, SO much fun. As soon as I saw her gloriously silver, cropped hair and big pink glasses, I was like, um yes gurl. I loved hearing about her inspiration for writing the book, her desire to portray the mix of east and west in India, and, most fascinating, her process for writing, editing, and publishing this story. It was a very fun and enlightening chat.
Ultimately, even though this book started slowly for me, it left such a favorable impression that I’m still looking forward to the two sequels Joshi already has in the works. I’m excited to see what happens next.