The first I found out about this book was on Anne’s blog Inked Brownies Check out her review HERE. So, first of all, this book was, as I like to say, Anne-certified (I just trust her recommendation) and available on Netgalley so… I could not pass up the opportunity. Fifteen Lanes did not disappoint… I do have to say this here though- this book, for me, was paradoxical- a fantastic read, even though utterly harrowing. I cringe every time I try to positively praise the book, because it deals with a number of painful topics. How do you say something horrible is actually great?
Noor has lived all of her fourteen years in the fifteen lanes of Mumbai’s red light district. Born into a brothel, she is destined for the same fate as her mother: a desperate life trapped in the city’s sex trade. She must act soon to have any chance of escaping this grim future.
Across the sprawling city, fifteen-year-old Grace enjoys a life of privilege. Her father, the CEO of one of India’s largest international banks, has brought his family to Mumbai where they live in unparalleled luxury. But Grace’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when she becomes a victim of a cruel online attack.
When their paths intersect, Noor and Grace will be changed forever. Can two girls living in vastly different worlds find a common path?
Award-winning author S.J. Laidlaw masterfully weaves together their stories in a way that resonates across class and culture. Fifteen Lanes boldly explores the ties that bind us to places and people, and shows us that the strongest of bonds can be forged when hope is all but lost.
I have so many thoughts about this book yet I feel I am unable to put these thoughts into a proper review. Fifteen Lanes simply stays with you for a long time after reading it. Noor and Grace, little Shami and Aamaal. VJ Patel. Parvati. They all stay with you. Their personalities and personal pain stays with you. It did with me. I have long finished reading this book and I am still thinking about it. But alright, let’s start from the beginning.
As you read from the blurb, we have two girls from “opposite sides of the tracks”. And this is where another paradox appears… and it appears in real life too…Noor with the horrible-horrible life is a survivor and ultimately the caretaker who puts everyone else ahead of herself while Grace, who is brought up in an environment where nothing is ever lacking (be it food, money or future opportunities) seems to be of weak mental decision making with her tilted priorities.
Fifteen Lanes is a book of strong contrasts with Noor and Grace sitting at the opposite ends of fate, and it did frustrate me to no end when reading about what Noor had to put up with- a life in a brothel, with broken women, taking care of her younger siblings; and then having Gracie-dear worry about something as petty as “I don’t have any friends” while literally slicing into her flesh to ease the pain of loneliness. Yet, as you can read from the blurb, the girls’ lives do cross paths and through some eyeopening experiences for both, they prevail. How and who is involved in turning the lives around for both girls, you will just have to read for yourself.
The writing was really good. The whole book, despite the strong contrast and content weighing heavily on the heart, was an experience in itself to read. The characters were believable and realistic. Even though our main spotlight goes to Noor for being such a young vessel of willpower and kindness, I also enjoyed getting to know VJ Patel. Now there’s a character that tests your prejudices.
Fifteen Lanes depressed me because it does mirror reality and inhumanity. The dark side of an exotic culture and the dark side a teenager’s mind. I always find it hardest trying to wrap my brain around this other way of living, this utterly broken way of feeling or thinking. The prostitution (and also the acid attacks) are something that are so far away that it’s hard to believe, yet I know it exists. The horrifying bit is when I fully admit that it doesn’t only happen in those far away lands, but on our own doorsteps as well. Perhaps not that predominantly and visibly and in those horrifying conditions, but it does happen.
And here comes the beautiful part. The ending. The message to take away from the story. For me, it wasn’t so much about “Oh, see, there are those two girls that are breaking the boundaries of a caste system”, it was more the friendship and the family aspect which ultimately keeps the story going, changes fates and futures and stubbornly shakes the inhumane unwritten rules brainwashed into a society over decades.
I do recommend you read this book. It’s great! *cringes*
My Rating: 4*** (I Really Liked It)