Category: Young Adult
Source: Personal Copy
This novel is set in pre-industrial India. A place where traditions, and status are highly valued. Twelve-year-old Leela comes from the elite Brahman class, she has been engaged since she was two, and married at nine. The story begins while she is currently awaiting her impending, much anticipated 'anu.' Afterwards, she will move into her husbands household and begin her life as a wife. Leela always wanted for nothing, her parents provided her with all the luxuries, knowing their time with their daughter was limited. Childhood remained short is India. As Leela begin to be acquainted with her husband, she realizes she is fortunate to have loving in-laws. However, disaster soon strikes. Her husband is bitten and killed by a snake. Leela's life of luxury comes crashing down and sever life-long restrictions are a new reality for her. A widow becomes a widow for life. In her social class women are never allowed to remarry, and will be shunned forever while a man is free to remarry. A widow is considered a bad omen, and feared by all. This is a remarkable coming of age story. Tradition dictates that Leela must remain in her household for a year. She must keep corner. Leela must shave her head, shed her gold, loose her colorful saris and become a proper widow. Through her year kept in her home, Leela begins to read about a political movement led by Gandhi. Her brother and tutor encourage her enlightenment. Her year kept in the home is met with sadness, anger, and desperation. As Leela becomes aware of the monumental calamity that has befallen her, she begins to want more.
I really enjoyed this novel. I love reading about different cultures, and traditions. Leela was a very strong young girl. A girl to be admired. Sheth keeps the language simple, but the messages strong. The glossary was very helpful, especially with the family terms. I strongly agree that this is a young adult book. The India culture was brought alive, and I really enjoyed every chapter. My heart broke for Leela, she was too young to realize her circumstance. She had to grieve for a boy she barely knew. Her life was over before it began. I was rooting for her throughout the novel. This story proves the importance of education. I will highly recommend this one.