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The Henna Artist
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The Henna Artist
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A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK"Eloquent and moving...Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial...
A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK"Eloquent and moving...Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial...
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  • A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

    A REESE WITHERSPOON x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB PICK

    "Eloquent and moving...Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love."—Publishers Weekly

    Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman's struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.

    Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own...

    Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

About the Author-

  • Alka Joshi was born in India and raised in the U.S. since the age of nine. She has a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from California College of Arts and runs an advertising and marketing agency. She has lived in France and Italy and currently lives in Pacific Grove, California, with her husband. The Henna Artist is her first novel.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 6, 2020
    Joshi’s eloquent debut follows a sought-after henna practitioner in postindependence Jaipur, India. Lakshmi Shastri survives a harsh childhood in rural Ajar by running away from an abusive, arranged teenage marriage. Determined to make something of herself, Lakshmi parlays her talent for original henna designs and herbal remedies into a successful business, offering henna to high-caste women and discreetly selling contraceptive tea to men with mistresses, including a man named Samir. After her estranged husband tracks her down years later, in 1955, with Lakshmi’s just-orphaned, 13-year-old sister, Radha, Lakshmi is surprised to learn she has a sister and devastated by the death of their parents, who were shamed after her departure. Lakshmi had saved to bring them to Jaipur, hoping to earn back their respect. Instead, Lakshmi takes in Radha, whose carefree interest in boys threatens to damage Lakshmi’s reputation and years-long struggle for independence. When faced with Samir’s vengeful wife, Lakshmi must come to terms with the effect of her actions on others. And after Radha becomes pregnant, Lakshmi gains an opportunity to put her family first. Joshi’s evocative descriptions capture India’s sensory ambience (horse-drawn tongas, pungent cooking fires and incense, and colorful saris), drawing readers deep into her moving story. Joshi masterfully balances a yearning for self-discovery with the need for familial love.

  • Library Journal

    February 14, 2020

    DEBUT In the mid-1950s, India is transitioning from British rule to independence, and the caste system is firmly in place. Lakshmi has escaped an abusive marriage in her small hometown and built a successful henna business in Jaipur, serving many of the city's wealthiest women. Although she is well-liked and her intricate designs are sought after by the elite, she is careful not to overstep class boundaries. When she is suddenly made responsible for her 13-year-old sister--whom she only recently learned existed--Lakshmi's carefully ordered world is turned upside down. Impulsive, impractical, and innocent, Radha is Lakshmi's opposite in nearly every way, but the sisters must learn to trust each other or they could lose everything. Joshi's story of a country and people in transition is filled with memorable characters, some kind, some cruel. VERDICT An uplifting tale that highlights the power of family. For fans of Shobha Rao's Girls Burn Brighter and the novels of Kristin Hannah. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/19.]--Portia Kapraun, Delphi P.L., IN

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    February 15, 2020
    It took years of painstaking work, but Lakshmi has finally built a life for herself in the pink city of Jaipur, India. After escaping the abusive marriage she had been forced into as a teenager in her rural village, she learned how to use her artistic skills to find work as a henna artist, inking elaborate designs on wealthy women and learning some of their deepest desires in the process. Now, with building work almost complete on her own home, Lakshmi begins to feel safe at last?until the younger sister she never knew she had is brought to her doorstep by Lakshmi's husband. Set in the 1950s, just eight years after India's independence from Britain, this lush novel reveals the intimate lives of India's elite while reckoning with the hardscrabble lot of the people who served them. Lakshmi's sister soon learns her own hard lesson about the entitlement of the upper classes, a lesson that threatens the independence Lakshmi has slowly earned for herself. Joshi has constructed a bewitching glimpse into the not-so-distant past with a tough heroine well worth cheering on.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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