The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is such an interesting read! Lakshmi ran from an abusive arranged marriage. Doing so permitted her the freedom to build her own living as a successful henna artist with a secretive side business. Her actions left her family in shame which passed down to an unknown younger sister who was born after her escape. Lakshmi had no contact with her parents other than sending updates and money that were never acknowledged.
After time, younger sister Radha is orphaned and decides it’s time to look for Lakshmi. She has watched their mother throw away Lakshmi’s letters for years. Radha and Lakshmi’s husband (they are technically still married) find her, which completely derails Lakshmi’s lifestyle. Her work pivoted on maintaining a good reputation with the upper class of Jaipur as she worked toward her main goal of building her own home. However, once Radha becomes pregnant with an important client’s son, everything begins to change.
Lakshmi’s keen business sense is put to the test as she tries to maintain her work and personal relationships. She finds herself wondering if everything she has worked for is really for the greater good or was it all selfishly motivated?
This story was gripping in so many elements: plot, setting and character development. It’s also full of cultural education, including a glossary of terms at the end of the book (I wished they were footnotes to make reading a bit smoother), recipes and more information about the art of henna.