I really liked this book - though it was quite disturbing to realize how many girls in India may actually be experiencing what Mukta experiences in the novel.
In 1986 Mukta is a 10 year old girl living in a small village in India. Her mother, grandmother and other female ancestors were all temple prostitutes - women from a lower caste who were required to "wed" a goddess rather than a man and make themselves available for any man in the community who wants their services. Mukta's mother is trying desperately to avoid this fate for her daughter, but is dying of a mysterious illness and, no longer able to work, Mukta's grandmother agrees to sell her to a Madam so she can "fulfill her destiny".
After her first brutal experience Mukta is rescued by a kind elderly woman who convinces her son to take her away to his home in Mumbai. There Mukta befriends his eight year old daughter Tara. Though she is worked to the bone by Tara's mother, and lives as a lowly servant, Tara teaches her to read and introduces her to a better life. This is not to last - Mukta is kidnapped and returned to a life of prostitution.
Meanwhile Tara and her father immigrate to Los Angeles, but neither forgets Mukta. After her father's death in 2004, Tara returns to Mumbai to search for her. The rest of the book alternates chapters between both girls' reminiscences about their past together, what happened to each of them in the intervening years and Tara's desperate search for Mukta.
The book gives great insight into India's caste system and how terrible traditions can be for certain lower caste women. It also shows the tremendous gap between the rich and the poor. But it also gives hope of how that gap can be bridged by friendships and caring people.
I strongly recommend this book.