A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER
A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK
"Captivated me from the first chapter to the final page."—Reese Witherspoon
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.
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.
“Eloquent and moving…Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.”—Publishers Weekly
Look for The Secret Keeper of Jaipur from New York Times bestselling author Alka Joshi!
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 Lakshmi has settled, her 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 realize 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.
The Henna Artist
A very readable novel. I learned so much about Indian culture
Fascinating story, beautifullly written.
Stick with this one. It develops into something so beautiful. I won’t soon forget it. And will definitely revisit it again.