The Henna Artist: A Novel
by Joshi Alka
Hardcover- $17.79



“Eloquent and moving…Joshi masterfully balances ...

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/23/20

Very much enjoyed the story
Learned a lot about india

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/26/20

I almost died when Lakshmi signed a contract for Radha baby to Her highness without consultation. I loved this book! What a beautiful story

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/29/20

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 12/19/20

This book was a fantastic insight into life in India in the 50s.

  "Fantastic vibrant characters " by [email protected] (see profile) 12/20/20

Wow, what an amazing read! You'll learn much about the art of henna and what is was like in1950's India culture. The author makes you feel like you are in the streets Jaipur, Rajasthan and experiencing the culture. The author is Indian and did research before writing the book.

Have your book club see the replay of Alka Joshi interview from the Syossett Public Library:

  "An interesting read about life's struggles in India." by thewanderingjew (see profile) 12/28/20

The Henna Artist: A Novel, Alka Joshi, author; Sneha Mathan, narrator
At the age of 15, Lakshmi’s parents arranged for her marriage to Hari Shastri a rickshaw driver. After two years of physical abuse because she failed to conceive a child, at the age of 17, she ran away to seek a new life. Her behavior brought shame and humiliation to her family. Superstition and the rumor mill flourished. Gossipmongers went to work. Her family’s already sad lives were turned even further upside down. Lakshmi’s sister Radha was born the year Lakshmi escaped from her husband’s home. She bore the brunt of the wicked tongues. The villagers called her the “bad luck girl”. She was humiliated and taunted by children and adults, both in school and outside. Whenever anything went wrong, the blame was cast upon her. She was told that it was her presence in the village that brought about the misfortune.
Lakshmi had not known of her sister’s birth until the day her husband suddenly showed up on her doorstep with her, in Jaipur. They were both filthy from their travels, and Lakshmi did not want the neighbors to see them since it would bring gossip down upon her own head. Hari had a terrible scar which made people fear him. Lakshmi had not revealed her own sad marriage situation, preferring to say little, and so she simply hinted that her husband traveled. She had told no one that she had run away and behaved badly for someone from her background for it would have shamed her and caused her to be ostracized.
Radha was only 12 years old when she arrived, and she needed a home. Hari was, as usual, in need of money. Lakshmi had spent almost two decades establishing herself as an independent woman. She did not want to jeopardize her achievements. She had learned how to speak and behave properly so that she could enter into the world of, and serve the needs of, those in the upper classes. By the time her sister entered her life she had earned a reputation as a healer, and she had become a superb, popular henna artist. She was building her own home and sending money home to her parents, not knowing that they had both died or that the husband she had abandoned had been taking her money. She was in a good position and was welcomed into the homes of the elites and the palaces of the royals to do their henna painting or to bring them herbal cures for what ailed them. Still, she was not their equal and always had to mind her manners as the invitations and lifestyle she had achieved were at the pleasure of these people. Any slight could bring about a reversal of her fortunes. When her sister arrived, she began to take her with her and to train her in proper decorum. She hoped to give her an education that would provide her with a better future than the one she had been able to achieve. This was the beginning of great changes in her life.
The place was India and the time was the mid 20th century. The class system was brutal for those at the bottom, but for women it was even worse. Her few rights were not granted to her by virtue of her own accomplishment, but by the good graces of a male or a husband. Essentially, at that time, she was property. Often, women were taken advantage of and were poorly educated. Lakshmi had accomplished much by advancing herself the way she had, gaining some financial independence, but still, she was subservient to those who lived in the homes she wanted to continue to enter. When Radha entered Lakshmi’s life, would she be the “bad luck girl”? Was Lakshmi guilty of neglecting her to serve her own selfish needs? Over the next year or so, Lakshmi would find out just what was important to her and just what was not.
Lakshmi had made several unwise choices, as did many of the other characters. Their mistakes were not easily erased in the current climate of affairs in India, and the culture made it hard to forgive a perceived sinner. A poor reputation, even when it was the result of lies and betrayals, was hard to undo and marked the victim forever. Was Lakshmi’s difficult life due to her own poor choices or to the circumstances of the times and the unjust customs of the culture? Were her choices the correct ones, in the end? Would Radha overcome all the difficulties she would face? Would pride and stubbornness be their undoing? Would Lakshmi’s values and Radha’s selfishness finally find a common ground? Is sacrifice for the good of others a worthy endeavor? Are ignorance and superstition an excuse for cruelty? Should loose tongues be rewarded or ignored? When a situation appears hopeless, should one act helpless or find courage to soldier on in a different direction? Some of the characters were pompous and cruel, some were kind and understanding. What kind of characters would Lakshmi, Hari, and Radha turn out to be ? Was the character of Samir and/or Parvati genuine or false, typical or unusual? Who was your favorite character?These were some questions that the book raised for me.
Each of the characters is interesting, and each brings an interesting point of view to light. The times and the culture are very well defined by each of their roles, lending authenticity to the story.

  "The Henna Artist " by Mysillyboy (see profile) 01/15/21

What a beautiful book. I have v ih sited Jaipur & fell in love with the city. I definitely coukd imagine everything in that book. Definitely a must read

  "" by Josie02 (see profile) 01/27/21

I like to learn about different cultures

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 01/29/21

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/21/21

Loved this book!

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 03/25/21

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/04/21

Predictable, lacked depth. Characters not likeable or well developed. Would have preferred more information about the culture.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/08/21

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  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/03/21

Really enjoyed the book.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/05/21

Loved it!

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/05/21

Interesting strong female emerges from sexist caste system.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 06/05/21

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  "Captures your imagination" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/05/21

Brings the reader into the world of India just following their independence from Great Britain and follows the life of a woman making it on her own among the elite of the caste system a very rare subject for those times. The author captures the smells, sights and feeling of India with great writing, intriguing storylines and very appealing characters.

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 08/18/21

  "The henna artist paints a picture " by lizblair (see profile) 10/28/21

The henna artist paints a collage of designs, all the characters are connected,

  "" by renarr (see profile) 10/30/21

  "" by realtorpam (see profile) 10/31/21

Loved this book. Loved the characters

  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 11/30/21

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  "Overcoming the odds" by lpollinger (see profile) 01/11/22

Lakshmi is 15 years old, living in India, when she is forced into an arranged marriage to a man who becomes very abusive. After a few years she manages to escape causing disgrace on her family. She learns the art of Henna a becomes a very sought after artist the the wealthy women of her town, she has also learned much about herbs and medicinal qualities from her former mother-in-law and she uses this knowledge on her “ladies”. When her 13 year old sister shows up at her doorstep ( she wasn’t even aware she has a sister) the very successful life she has built for herself starts to unravel. She must now make some very difficult choices to insure a life for her and her sister.

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  "" by lsanderoff (see profile) 07/30/22

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