Reese’s Book Club: The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

A few weeks ago I was made aware of The Henna Artist (AbeBooks) (Amazon) when it was an audio daily deal on Amazon. The description sounded a little out of my wheelhouse but decided at such a low price, and that it was part of a national book club, made me take the chance. I’m glad I did.

From the Publisher:

“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.”

I’ve been unintentionally reading a lot about many different cultures lately. Or maybe it is subconsciously intentional. I like to learn about new things. Life in 1950’s Jaipur was definitely a lot different than any other culture I’d read about. Lakshmi’s world was so different, and at first it was hard to get into her head because it was so different. But it wasn’t long before the story took off for me.

What I liked about Lakshmi was that she was trying to be independent in a world and in a time when that was very unusual. Yet, she earns the respect of many with her actions, which are always carefully thought out because of the consequences of being a married woman whose husband is not around. That world she worked hard to create is upset when her estranged husband tracks her down and brings her a 13-year old sister she didn’t even knew existed. Navigating that new world and what it means is the essence of the book.

There’s a lot of interesting information on the mixing and making of herbal teas and remedies, and even though I don’t do spicy, I did find myself craving for my mom’s curry dip with all the delicious descriptions of food. There’s a lot of description of what people are wearing and of different fabrics and designs. All this information helps the reader get absorbed into the world of 1950’s Jaipur. It was hard for me to take a break from the audio book because it was so compelling.

I really enjoyed listening to the audio book of The Henna Artist and was happy to hear that Alka Joshi is making this a trilogy. I’m on board for the next one!

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  1. Oh, this book’s been on my TBR since I saw its stunning cover being circulated around bookstagram. I love that South Asian characters and fiction is getting more visible these days.
    Here’s the link to MY POST in case you want to drop by later. Have a great reading week!

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