The Henna Artist

By Alka Joshi,

Book cover of The Henna Artist

Book description

For fans of Balli Kaur Jaswal's Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows and Thrity Umrigar's The Space Between Us, Alka Josh's The Henna Artist by is lushly-rendered, emotional book club fiction set in post-Raj 1950s Jaipur about a young woman struggling to shape her own destiny in a world pivoting between…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked The Henna Artist as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I love that The Henna Artist, set in the 1950s, is a book with heart, written in an easy style. Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant and beautiful pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class.

Then, just when she thinks she is safe, she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down. He is accompanied by a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. As her life turns upside-down, Lakshmi must…

From Chitra's list on the many mysteries of India.

I didn’t know a thing about this book before I read it, but the lyrical narrative held me fast. Lakshmi escaped her husband and her small village in India. She made a successful life for herself in Jaipur, as a sought-after henna artist who dispenses peace and wisdom along with her art. When her husband arrives at her door, trailing her 13-year-old sister Radha, dubbed “Bad Luck Girl” by the village, she cannot turn her away. Sulky Radha turns Lakshmi’s life upside down, jeopardizing all she has built. With strength and love, Lakshmi transforms scandal and tragedy into new lives…

From Kelly's list on celebrating sisterhood through time.

Imagine walking away from your husband and family after he abused you one too many times. Especially when doing so would mean your family would be ostracized and ridiculed for your actions. The main character in this story does what she must to save herself from further beatings and worse in a loveless arranged marriage. Talk about emotional fortitude! She uses that gumption to make a far better, if not perfect, life for herself and those she grows to love in her new city in India in the 1950s. Worth reading!

The Henna Artist feels so real, and I'm not Indian, never lived in India in 1955. The main character Lakshmi is a survivor who prevails in a culture committed to religious beliefs that make a woman nothing better than a piece of furniture. Lakshmi uses her talent to become independent and dreams of owning a home. The fly in the ointment is her younger sister, who by her youth and ignorance, spoils everything for Lakshmi. But remember, Lakshmi is a survivor. 

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