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The Color of Our Sky

Book Review :: The Color of Our Sky

First line: "The memory of that moment hit me like a surging ocean wave—drawing me into it—the sour smell of darkness, those sobs erupting like an echo from a bottomless pit."
The Color of Our SkyMukta was born to a devdasis, a temple prostitute,  in her Indian village of Ganipur. Tradition held that as a female off-spring, she too would become a devdasis. Her mother, however, wanted nothing more than to break the evil cycle and free her daughter from this life of daily horror.

Tara was born to upper caste Brahmins from the same village. Because their parents didn't approve of the marriage, Tara's parents were forced to elope, fleeing their village to live in Mumbai. But Tara was still afforded all the benefits of her upper caste heritage: an education, a nice home, plenty to eat.

When Mukta's mother dies at the hands of the villagers, Tara's father takes Mukta away to Mumbai. He has helped many homeless orphans so Tara thinks nothing of Mukta coming to stay with them. But Mukta stays longer than the other children. Tara's mother teaches her to clean the house, cook and escort Tara to school. In short, she treats her like a servant. But Tara teaches Mukta to read, she befriends her and the girls grow close.  Until a bomb in the bazaar blows their contented life into a million pieces.

The Color of Our Sky is the story of these two young Indian girls whose families came from the same village. Told in their alternating first person voices from the mid-1980s to 2008, it's heartbreaking and hopeful, unthinkable and uplifting. Amita Trasi's story canvas shines brilliantly with the colors of her rich characters, the power of her themes, her beautiful setting and optimism. The dark strokes of evil, hate, greed and desperation also add to the magnetism.

I finished The Color of Our Sky reminded of each human's extraordinary value. Race, gender, caste or class, age, sexual orientation, none of it makes us better or worse than someone else. Those are simply traits that fate drops in our laps. We don't control those things. Our compassion, empathy, generosity and kindness are the true measures of a good human being.  We have the power to change these things, and how we choose to wield that power tells the world all it needs to know.

The Color of Our Sky is far from a light beach read, but since we all still have time before the summer season really hits us—at least here in the U.S. anyway—there's plenty of opportunity to luxuriate in the depth and breadth of this incredible debut from Amita Trasi.

Goodreads - Brown Dog Solutions

My review today of The Color of Our Sky is part of the TLC blog tour. You can discover what other bloggers are saying about it by checking out the complete tour schedule here.
Orphan Train

Book review :: Orphan Train

First line: "I believe in ghosts."
Orphan Train In 2013 readers first discovered Christina Baker Kline's Orphan Train. I was not among them. I guess you could say, I missed that train. And it's very rare these day for me to be able to circle back on a book I missed when it came out, but this TLC Book Tour for the revised paperback edition of Orphan Train allowed me to do just that. And I'm thankful for the opportunity. What a wonderful novel. Niamh Power is only nine years old when a fire takes her father and siblings and leaves her mother in a mental institution. It's 1929 in New York City and the Children's Aid Society transports orphans west--via train--to families that will take them in. Niamh, a red-haired Irish immigrant, is one of the orphans caught up in this system. Molly Ayer is in a similar situation in Spruce Harbor Maine in 2011. While there is no longer an orphan train, Molly is stuck in the foster system. Her father died in a car accident and her mother spiraled into addiction issues leaving her unable to care for Molly. She's close to aging out of the system, but when she tries to steal an old tattered copy of Jane Eyre from the library and is caught, she's left in a serious predicament: serve community service hours or juvie time.  Molly's boyfriend Jack manages to arrange the community service time with his mother's employer, an old woman named Vivian Daly who needs to clean out her attic. As Molly helps Vivian go through her belongings in the attic, she learns the story of the red-haired Irish immigrant who traveled on the orphan train in Depression-era America, and a special bond forms. Orphan Train is a beautiful, disturbing, haunting historical novel that spotlights humanity's basest creatures and its most compassionate.  The story illustrates the power of determination and the human ability to overcome life's harshest storms with the support of others. Kline's atmosphere thickly envelopes readers, laying them on an old, moldy, infested mattresses on the ground or trudging them through a snow storm. Kline has a letter at the opening of the novel indicating that she's added to a scene that she received many letters about. Not having read the original version, I wasn't able to discern where this addition was made. It is seamless and causes no bumps in the plot. Those who have read the book previously may want to venture back and see how the addition affects their reading of the women's stories. If, like me, you missed the Orphan Train before now, I encourage you to pick it up. This is definitely a train you'll be glad you jumped aboard.