The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (Review by Shelley Jomaa)

2 min read

Rating 4.5/5 Stars

The Henna Artist tells the story of Lakshmi after she escapes an abusive marriage and learns to build an independent life on her own. Given that the story is set in India in the 1950s, this is no easy task. However, with hard work, ambitious goals, and the right opportunities, Lakshmi is able to support herself by painting henna art for the upper-class women of Jaipur. She also earns extra income through her healing herbal remedies, a skill learned from her former mother-in-law.

Lakshmi builds a solid reputation as an artist and a healer with the ladies of Jaipur. She is an intelligent business woman who continuously seeks new opportunities to expand. She is so close to her goal of building her own home when her estranged husband tracks her down. He brings her the shocking news of her parents’ passing, as well as the teenage sister, Radha, she did not know about.

Lakshmi and Radha struggle to coexist. When Lakshmi brings Radha to her henna appointments, Radha becomes pregnant by the son of Lakshmi’s most influential client, Pavarti. Pavarti’s son is engaged to be married and refuses to provide any support, yet Radha is determined to keep her baby. Pavarti stops booking her henna art appointments and uses her social influence to destroy Lakshmi’s business and reputation in Jaipur. Lakshmi is forced to look hard at her life and re-evaluate what is truly important as she starts over once again.

I absolutely loved this book. The writing is beautiful, the story is engaging, and the pacing is perfect. I enjoyed learning about the culture and caste systems in India during that era. My favourite part of the book is Lakshmi. She is a well-developed character that never gives up. Her ambition, drive, and work ethic are truly admirable. She sets clear goals and creates the opportunities to achieve them. If you are looking for a story about family with an inspiring and empowering female lead, this is the book for you!

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