A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK
'This vivid story is so rich and complex...reading about Lakshmi's journey from escaping an abusive marriage to becoming one of the most sought-after henna artists in Jaipur captivated me from the first chapter to the final page.' Reese Witherspoon
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.
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.
"Eloquent and moving...Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love." - Publishers Weekly
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
What if, with the flick of a brush, you could paint yourself out of all your pain and unhappiness—and into a brand new life? For teenager Lakshmi, fleeing an abusive marriage in 1950s India means heading for the vibrant city of Jaipur. Once she’s settled, Lakshmi’s artistic talents make her the city’s most sought-after henna painter, hired to adorn the hands and bodies of rich, powerful women. Told through evocative, lush prose, Alka Joshi’s gorgeous debut novel uses one woman’s compelling story to explore a nation in the middle of earthshaking transitions. We were so wonderfully absorbed in Lakshmi’s journey that we didn’t even realise how much we were learning about India’s complicated history, and about colonialism, social upheaval and the caste system. The Henna Artist is a full sensory experience, transporting us to another time and another place.
Joshi's eloquent debut follows a sought-after henna practitioner in postindependence Jaipur, India. Lakshmi Shastri survives a harsh childhood in rural Ajar by running away from an abusive, arranged teenage marriage. Determined to make something of herself, Lakshmi parlays her talent for original henna designs and herbal remedies into a successful business, offering henna to high-caste women and discreetly selling contraceptive tea to men with mistresses, including a man named Samir. After her estranged husband tracks her down years later, in 1955, with Lakshmi's just-orphaned, 13-year-old sister, Radha, Lakshmi is surprised to learn she has a sister and devastated by the death of their parents, who were shamed after her departure. Lakshmi had saved to bring them to Jaipur, hoping to earn back their respect. Instead, Lakshmi takes in Radha, whose carefree interest in boys threatens to damage Lakshmi's reputation and years-long struggle for independence. When faced with Samir's vengeful wife, Lakshmi must come to terms with the effect of her actions on others. And after Radha becomes pregnant, Lakshmi gains an opportunity to put her family first. 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.
Through turning pages I transported myself to India, learned of its cultures, history, castes & simple life. The characters grew & blended into the story line based on the author’s mother. It’s a whole different world that I moved through & became attached to for a resounding finish. Just loved it.
I couldn’t put this down and would love to see it as a film and follow their journeys
Even a sequel !
A vivid, wonderful story
Prepare to be transported to exotic Jaipur! This wonderful story is beautifully written and invokes such vivid images. You will not be disappointed, a must read!