Sold - by Patricia McCormick

"a horrible lifestyle that goes on as you sit in a parallel universe"

     Imagine riding on the back of a truck that you’ve never seen before. You don’t know where you are, who you’re with, or if you’ll ever see your family again. You come to halt in front of an unknown home and are told to strip and put on a new dress, a fancy dress. Makeup is forced on you and you're shoved into a room with bars on the window, a small cot, and a plastic bowl for the toilet. You wait for someone to explain what’s going on ‘till a woman comes into the room with a man, a customer.

     In Sold Patricia McCormick tells the story of how this happened to thirteen-year-old  Lakshmi, a poor merchant girl born on a remote hilltop in Nepal. Ama, Lakshmi’s mother, is married to a terrible gambler after her first husband, Lakshmi’s father, died. Every day is a struggle for this courageous girl. She works to keep her cucumbers ripe, her goat happy, and her family fed. Growing up within the lower class has taught Lakshmi how to handle hunger and hope. Everyday she prays to her goddess that her life will get better and for her family to have one thing, a tin roof.

     When Lakshmi offered an opportunity to work for the benefit of her family, she realizes that this is exactly the thing she has been praying for. She has no idea about the horrifying fate to come. In her new environment, locked in a room with bars, she struggles to survive. Her days have no meaning until a small boy enters her life and begins to teach Lakshmi English words, her only means of frail happiness. Day after day she learns these new and foreign words until one day an American comes to Lakshmi asking her if she is being held there against her will, Lakshmi is speechless.

     McCormick uses the harsh truth to appeal to her readers. By using research and realistic detail, the reader is informed of a life that’s often unmentioned and overlooked. The style used to write this book captivates the reader and adds reality to the situation. By using choppy phrases like, “They crush my bones with their weight. They split me open. Then they disappear. I hurt,” McCormick takes us to a new level of disbelief. Every page in this book has something more shocking that the last.

     Reading the story of this small girl’s trials for triumph is captivating and heart touching.
Throughout the novel, McCormick used visual imagery to provide scenarios that will have you crying and give you another look at how great you have it. Sold shows readers that every day they live in a paradise which they are oblivious to, and that there really is human trafficking going on in the world, right now, even as you read this. Sold will inform you and compel you to do something about this horrible lifestyle that’s going on everyday and every night as you sit in parallel universe. Sold will have you rethinking life thanks to Patricia McCormick’s amazing words of truth.

   - Allison B.

"Ama teaches Lakshmi the harsh realities of being a woman in a male-dominated society."

    Patricia McCormick captures a haunting story in her novel Sold. It opens with Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old  Himalayan mountain girl who lives in a quaint and isolated village with her Ama, her stepfather, and her unnamed infant sibling. Lakshmi takes great pleasure in the simplest of things. She has a deep love for her small cucumber garden, her goat Tali, and most of all her Ama. Her Ama, or her mother, is her world. Ama teaches Lakshmi everything she wants to know about life along with everything she must know to survive. Lakshmi is fascinated with her Ama and loves her more than any word can describe. Ama teaches her daughter about the harsh realities of being a woman in a male-dominated society. The essential core of the novel manifests itself in a short conversation between Lakshmi and her Ama. Lakshmi asks her Ama why women must suffer so much at the hands of men. Her Ama’s reply powerfully expresses the mindset of the novel. She states, “This has always been our fate…Simply to endure is to triumph”. This comment foreshadows what is to become of Lakshmi. Her innocence soon becomes a forgotten memory and a thing of the past. When Lakshmi is forced out of her element, she must face the grim horrors of reality.

    The village suffers a particularly devastating rainy season and Lakshmi’s family’s crops are completely destroyed. Lakshmi’s stepfather forces her to get a job in the city. Suddenly a world of possibility fills Lakshmi’s mind. She dreams of a new city life full of its extravagances. When Lakshmi is sold to the “Happiness House”, her dream quickly fades away. Lakshmi soon learns that there is nothing happy about this place. The only happy people are the men being serviced at the expense of the young girls. Home becomes a place so far away that it is almost forgotten. 

     McCormick does a wonderful job of describing things as they are, no matter how unpleasant they may be. The sentences are abrupt and straightforward.  I really like the way she describes the crude conditions of village life. One particular description that stuck with me was a scene illustrating the harsh dry season of the village. McCormick writes, “The baby’s eyes are caked with dirt. He cries without fury. He cries without tears”. I also think she does a great job capturing the viewpoint of a sheltered, thirteen-year-old girl. She describes a Coca-Cola as “having tiny fireworks in your mouth”. By using elementary and simplistic diction, McCormick perfectly channels life as a young, Himalayan mountain girl would see it.

     McCormick also does a great job illustrating the naivety of Lakshmi. When Lakshmi arrives at the “Happiness House”, she does not register the corruption that really goes on inside its walls. Her village upbringing has not prepared her for what the house has in store. Upon arriving she states, “I wonder if perhaps this Happiness House is where the movie stars live”. Young girls like Lakshmi are tricked into believing something good is about to happen to them' then they become the slaves of the world’s corruption. 

     McCormick’s Sold traces the journey of Lakshmi. Lakshmi represents multitudes of young girls who are constantly being sold into sexual slavery. Sold helps raise awareness about this heartless crime. McCormick’s story is authentic. She interviewed aid workers and survivors of the horrible institution of sexual slavery. This book is definitely not for people who are easily unsettled. Some scenes are rather disturbing, but they are necessary to tell the story of girls forced into this kind of slavery all around the world. I thought Sold was an excellent book. The novel will definitely touch you in an emotional way and make you feel for the girls who must endure this kind of pain. McCormick’s writing style perfectly complements the subject matter. Sold is an excellent read.

"The short, blunt sentences portray the hopelessness she feels."

Patricia McCormick tells the painful story of thirteen-year old Lakshmi in her book Sold. Lakshmi lives with her mother and her step-father in a small village in the mountainous area of Nepal. They are very poor. She and her mother worry about the things they cannot live without like their mud roof, which could give at any time, and food for them and her baby brother. Her step-father is the complete opposite. He seems to have no worries about the welfare of his family as he gambles away their money. At one point her mother has to sell her special earrings just so that they can eat. Possessions do not have as much meaning to them as food and shelter. The scarcity in Lakshmi’s life gives her a wonderful appreciation for what she does have. She values her human-like goat Tali as a special friend and companion. However, Lakshmi’s life changes drastically when she goes to work to provide for her family.

    When her step-father hears of a woman who will pay for children that are able to work, he decides he will sell Lakshmi to the woman. Lakshmi is ready and willing to help her family. Lakshmi and her family believe that she is going to work for a wealthy family as a servant. They are unaware, however, of the horrors that are in store for her. After a tremendously long journey, Lakshmi finds herself forced into what she later finds out is a brothel. The owner in charge of the brothel treats the girls horribly. Lakshmi is forced to wear heavy makeup and cut her hair. She does not like the new person this makes her.

    McCormick writes the story from the point of view of the girl. It’s written in a kind of free verse journal form. The low diction reflects the innocence of Lakshmi. The short, blunt sentences portray the helplessness she feels. The way it is written really makes the reader feel the pain and sadness Lakshmi feels. I liked the story as a whole. It was a short read, but very interesting at the same time. The details of Lakshmi’s experiences in the brothel are portrayed very graphically. This was necessary though because it helps the reader understand how incredibly repulsive the world of prostitution is for women. It really makes you appreciate what you might take for granted every day. The beautiful part of the story, though, is that the reader sees Lakshmi maturing and becoming aware of the world around her. She becomes a sort of heroine when you see how strong she becomes.

     This book was excellently written. The story was compelling and heart wrenching. The author creates a character that women (and men too) can see strength in. The only warning that needs to be given is the graphic descriptions of the incidents in the brothel.

   - Aryn Michael D.