Sisters of the Sari

I love it when I discover a gem of a book all on my own that I’ve never heard of before. It confirms that my book radar is still working. I picked up a copy of Sisters of the Sari by Brenda L. Baker (published by Penguin) to take on holiday, and once I started I couldn’t put it down. Kiria Langdon, the CEO of a major company, arrives in Chennai, India on holiday and discovers that her luggage somehow made its way to Beijing. Her reaction… “Well, this sucks”. Right off the bat I knew this was going to be a good book. When you’re left with no clothes, other than the totally inappropriate ones you’re wearing, the first thing you want to do is go shopping. Circumstances go wrong from the get-go, Kiria is robbed, and left standing on the street, with no way to get back to her hotel. She’s rescued by Santoshi… a short woman in a frayed green sari with a skeletal body and no teeth who looks about 60. She takes control of the situation, escorts Kiria back to her hotel on the bus (which she pays for) and then takes her leave. Kiria is determined to pay this woman back. And that’s how the story starts, all in the first few pages. When Kiria sees that Santoshi lives in a shelter for women, she becomes obsessed with the idea of building decent housing for the poor, working women in India. Reluctantly Santoshi agrees to help Kiria, and the New Beginnings Women’s Hostel slowly emerges. There’s a host of other interesting characters, situations, and descriptions that all make this a really wonderful read. Lots of humour too. As you can imagine, nothing goes according to plan. Each woman ends up on a personal journey of discovery, Kiria through Indian culture, and Santoshi when she realizes there’s a world outside the shelter. In “real life” Brenda worked in the computer field, then moved to India, where she volunteered by writing funding proposals and teaching English to women in shelters, and now she’s back living in Ontario. She’s walked the walk, and now she’s talking the talk. Her book is a definite must. Read it before the summer is over – you won’t be disappointed.

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