Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Review: Fifteen Lanes by S.J. Laidlaw

Fifteen LanesISBN: 1101917806
Published: April 5th, 2016
Publisher: Tundra Books
Received from: Netgalley
Read from May 17th to 21st, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Noor has lived all of her fourteen years in the fifteen lanes of Mumbai’s red light district. Born into a brothel, she is destined for the same fate as her mother: a desperate life trapped in the city’s sex trade. She must act soon to have any chance of escaping this grim future.
Across the sprawling city, fifteen-year-old Grace enjoys a life of privilege. Her father, the CEO of one of India’s largest international banks, has brought his family to Mumbai where they live in unparalleled luxury. But Grace’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when she becomes a victim of a cruel online attack.
When their paths intersect, Noor and Grace will be changed forever. Can two girls living in vastly different worlds find a common path?
Award-winning author S.J. Laidlaw masterfully weaves together their stories in a way that resonates across class and culture. Fifteen Lanes boldly explores the ties that bind us to places and people, and shows us that the strongest of bonds can be forged when hope is all but lost.


Considering the subject matter, I'm finding it difficult to write a review of Fifteen Lanes that I'm happy with. The book's narration switches between two girls with very different lives. Noor is the daughter of a sex worker who has lived in the same brothel her entire life, and despite her mother's determination to give her an education when those around her say that educating a female child is worthless, Noor's odds of escaping are almost nonexistent as the brothel owner already views her as his property.

Then there's Grace, a rich North American girl whose father runs a large company in Mumbai. She's never felt like she fits in and becomes even more ostracized by her peers when she's betrayed by those she was trying to befriend.

While you learn both girls' stories, Noor is undoubtedly the focus of the book. The point-of-view of the chapters does not just go back and forth between the girls each chapter, and while I didn't count, I do believe that Noor has quite a few more chapters than Grace.

In the end, Grace's story is there to support Noor's story, which is interesting to me because what happens to Grace throughout the novel would be enough to support a novel on its own. For that reason, I would have thought the book wouldn't work well, but it actually did in my opinion. While I think the novel could have been great without Grace's story, I did enjoy reading both girl's chapters and seeing how their stories intertwined with each other.

From the author's note at the end of the story, you learn that the author of the book works at an NGO like those described in the book itself, and it is also clear that she wanted to tell this story the "right" way. She says that it took her a long time to write for that reason, and I think it comes across in the book how important of a topic this is to her and how carefully she approached this story.

It's hard to call this an enjoyable read when it's heart-wrenching and often difficult to read. Laidlaw doesn't shy away from sharing the horrors of Noor's life, but there is also so much good within the story inside Noor and many of the other characters. I would highly recommend this book.

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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