I picked up Alka Joshi’s novel at our Little Free Library down the street. Two pages in I was lost in the protagonist’s world of post-Independence India.
Seventeen-year-old Lakshmi escapes from an abusive marriage, traveling solo to Jaipur of the 1950’s. Drawing on her mother-in-law’s lessons in plant medicine and henna art, Lakshmi becomes a much-in-demand henna artist, confidante to her wealthy clients and Jaipur’s (anonymous) version of Margaret Sanger.
What stays with me are the novel’s utterly satisfying personal transformations: Lakshmi’s own as well as those of her former husband and her younger sister, a sister whom she never knew existed and whose appearance threatens her carefully constructed professional and personal life. Reading The Henna Artist during the pre-midterm election hooplah, shifted Lakshmi’s expertise with plant medicine from the world of fiction to the realities of women’s lives since, well, since forever.
I promised to keep this short so that’s about it except to say, look into Joshi’s The Henna Artist . Turns out it’s the first in a three-novel series. Happy reading!