I’ve started a couple books in my adult life that I put down after a few chapters, unable to enjoy the content because of the content, if you know what I mean. And I knew what I was getting into when I started reading “Sold” a couple days ago. I knew this was the story of young Nepali teenager sold into the nightmare world of human trafficking. And I began it knowing it would rock my senses. I steeled myself for the experience as I opened to page 1, foolishly thinking steeling oneself from brutal reality is a good thing. I quickly lost that battle the moment I turned to page 2.
I didn’t want to read it and yet I did. As soon as I began reading, I was captivated. I am grateful to author Patricia McCormick whose stunning skill with free verse humanized in spectacularly simple prose, a story everyone of us should read. You can’t live on this planet and not read this book.
Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her mother and stepfather in a mountain village in Nepal. The life of a hill country girl is hard, but she finds beauty in the simple joys of loving a baby brother, helping her mother, tending her cucumber patch, walking with her goat.
Then one day her stepfather, a gambling addict, tells her that she is going to go work as a maid in India so that her wages can be sent home. Sad to leave, but happy to help her family, Lakshmi makes the long journey accompanied by adults she’s been instructed to trust, and arrives at “Happiness House.” She soon discovers the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.
Lakshmi’s world is now a tiny prison with other young girls. Her home is a brothel with bars on the windows with goons patrolling the exits and where just outside crooked cops are paid to say nothing. Any hope of escape fades with each passing month. How will she ever get away?
This hope that somehow Lakshmi must escape this hell she has been sold into compels you to turn, turn, turn the pages, to devour the sparse yet enchanting prose that keeps you from collapsing into despair as you read.
Can I say without spoiling anything that the ending is full of hope? But can I also say that the ending is full of hope for only one girl? One girl among the tens of thousands who live the same life?
Sold is a wake-up call, not just an expertly crafted novel. No one should sleep through the evidence that this fictional life is lived out in reality all across the globe. Even here in the United States. Even here where I live. Where you live.
There aren’t many of us who have the influence, affluence, muscle, and motivation to travel to the places where sex trafficking is rampant and intervene. But all of us have the ability to support those who do. Children’s Hope Chest and International Justice Mission are two organizations that I financially support as often as I can. They are going into the corridors of hell to rescue real girls just like Lakshmi. And they really do it. All the time.
I understand if you think you can’t handle reading a book like this one. But that excuse really won’t stand up if you think by keeping yourself in the dark, you can pretend you don’t see it. Close your eyes if you must, but don’t pretend that what you can’t see isn’t there. It’s there. And you and I can’t face God at the end of our days and say we didn’t know.
We must find a way to help make it stop. Even if the most we can do is reach into our wallets with our eyes screwed shut. Perhaps in the giving, we will be granted the courage to open our eyes and do more.