I had just read and enjoyed Addison's newer book when I noticed his first novel was about India. Since I'm headed there shortly, I had to read it - and it did not disappoint. Though it did not paint India in the most positive light, given its focus on child exploitation, human trafficking and prostitution, it was not any more generous in its portrayal of Europe and the U.S. when it comes to these horrendous topics.
Ahalya Ghai, who is 17, and her 15 year old sister, Sita, are upper middle class Indian girls living in a seaside town near Chennai. While home on winter break from the convent school they attend, they are suddenly orphaned when a tsunami kills their parents, grandmother and long time housekeeper. Grief stricken and alone they try to make their way to the safety of the convent school but are instead abducted by human traffickers and introduced to a life of sexual violence in Mumbai.
At the same time, an American lawyer, Thomas, is dissatisfied with his life - his wife has left him following the sudden death of their infant daughter and the large firm he has devoted his life to is making him the scapegoat when a mistake is made and a large client threatens to sue. By chance he gets wind of the crime of human trafficking when a young girl is kidnapped from a park he is visiting. He thus picks up and moves to Mumbai to do a pro bono sabbatical with an NGO that prosecutes human traffickers. While there he also hopes to find closure with his wife and her traditional family.
Early in his assignment Thomas hears of the fate of Ahalya and Sita and dedicates his time to rescuing the pair. This leads him through the red light district in Mumbai, to the Russian mob in Paris, and ultimately back to the underworld in the U.S.
Like Addison's other book this is part crime novel, part political commentary and very much a story of human relationships and resilience. I don't want to tell much more of the story for fear of spoiling it - and it's definitely worth the read.