Summary and book reviews of Sold by Patricia McCormick

Sold
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 272 pages

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Book Summary

Although Lakshmi's family is desperately poor her life still contains simple pleasures; but, when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather sends her away to take a job to support her family. When she arrives at “Happiness House”, full of hope, she learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution. An exceptional novel suitable for teens and adults.

Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut in the mountains of Nepal. Her family is desperately poor, but her life is full of simple pleasures, like raising her black-and-white speckled goat, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family.

He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid working for a wealthy woman in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi undertakes the long journey to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.

An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt – then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.

Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother’s words – “Simply to endure is to triumph” – and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision – will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?

Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.

To research Sold, Patricia McCormick traveled to India and Nepal where she interviewed the women of Calcutta’s red-light district and girls who have been rescued from the sex trade. She is the author of the acclaimed novels Cut and My Brother’s Keeper.

SOLD

I'm wiping the makeup off my face when the dark-skinned
girl comes in.
"What do you think you're doing?" she says.

"I'm going home."

Her tear-shaped eyes grow dark.

"There is a mistake," I tell her. "I'm here to work as a maid for
a rich lady."

"Is that what you were told?"

Then Mumtaz arrives at the door, huffing, her mango face
pink with anger.

"What do you think you're doing?" she says.

"Leaving," I say. "I'm going home."

Mumtaz laughs. "Home?" she says. "And how would you get
there?"

I don't know.

"Do you know the way home?" she says.
"Do you have money for the train?
Do you speak the language here?
Do you even have any idea where you are?"

My heart is pounding like the drumming of a monsoon rain,
and my shoulders are shaking as if I had a great chill.

"You ignorant hill girl," she says.
"You don't know anything. Do you?"

I wrap my arms around myself and grip with all my might.
But the trembling will not stop.

"Well, then," Mumtaz says, pulling her ...

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A Letter from Kolkata

Inspired in part by Sold, in 2007 a BookBrowse member went to visit the Apne-Aap center in Koltata.  Apne Aap (which means self-help in Hindi) is a community-based initiative that began in the red light area of Mumbai in 1998.

On her return, she sent a letter to the many friends and family who gave contributions for her to take with her. This is what she wrote:

I'm back!

It was an incredible journey in India and a memorable moving visit to Apne-Aap in Kolkata (Calcutta). While in Kolkata I also visited the slum areas and the red light district, where Apne-Aap has community centers. I had hoped to be able to share some pictures ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Sold is a devastating little book written in free verse. Although written for teenage readers, it is one of those books that can and should cross-over into the adult market. I cannot recommend it highly enough.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (730 words).

Media Reviews

Children's Literature

McCormick's unrhymed verse seems to ride the fragility of Lakshmi's bruised spirit.

Publishers Weekly

Readers will admire Lakshmi's grit and intelligence, and be grateful for a ray of hope for this memorable heroine at book's end.

KLIATT - Claire Rosser

This is an important story, and McCormick tells it well.

Kirkus Reviews

McCormick provides readers who live in safety and under protection of the law with a vivid window into a harsh and cruel world-one most would prefer to pretend doesn't exist.

School Library Journal

Part of McCormicks research for this novel involved interviewing women in Nepal and India, and her depth of detail makes the characters believable and their misery palpable. This important book was written in their honor.

Reader Reviews

Chloe

Great
At first I didn't think I would like this book, but as I continued to read I couldn't even put down because I wanted to know what would happen next. But this book is pretty mature and I think its a good choice for older teens and adults.

derryburnsjr.

sold
Its amazing in an education about a girl who fights for her mentality.

EmilyS

Real
I read this book for my 11th grade english class. Even though I was aware of sex slavery and human trafficking before, this is yet again another eye opener. Such a beautiful book that should have more acknowledgement. Does a great job of showing the ...   Read More

Taylor

Awesome
My class read this book for 10th grade world literature. To be honest I never thought I would like this book because most books teachers read are really bad, but not this one. It's just something else. It teaches you about the things that go on in ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Each year about 12,000 Nepali girls are sold by their families, intentionally or unwittingly, into a life of sexual slavery in the brothels of India.

Worldwide, the US State Department estimates that nearly half a million children are trafficked into the sex trade annually.

Lakshmi was sold by her stepfather to the intermediary for 800 Nepalese Rupees - less than $11.

McCormick suggests ways teenagers (and adults) can help:

Educate yourself by visiting ...

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