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Town of Love, by Anne Ch. Ostby.

January 21, 2014

Town of Love, by Anne Ch. Ostby.  Spinifex Press (2013), Paperback, 284 pages.

 An engaging novel about a region on India’s isolated northern border where women support their families through prostitution.

Anne Ostby’s new novel is not a fantasy, but a book based on the realities of life for women in villages in northern India where their prostitution is the major source of income for some families.  She has spent time there and based her fiction on what she saw and heard.  Some of the women belong to a specific ethnic group who claim that this is their traditional way of surviving.  Others have been kidnapped or sold into the sex trade.  What is clear is that their prostitution is clearly linked to caste and poverty.  Yet as Ostby shows, the situation is not hopeless.  Reformers are slowly working in the region, gaining the women’s trust, enhancing their self-esteem, and teaching them other marketable skills.

Remarkably, Town of Love is not simply about the horrors of prostitution.  It is a well-written novel with fully developed characters. The plot is fast-moving and draws readers into what is happening.  It centers around a young woman who had been kidnapped into the sex trade.  She escaped and is now frantic to rescue her adolescent daughter.  Others in the village help and hinder her.  A woman from a national organization finally decides to help, but even that does not guarantee success.

I recommend this book for all readers who appreciate how people manage to act as human beings in situations that deny their humanity.

 Thanks to Spinifex Press for sending me this book to review.

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