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    The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi is the story of Lakshmi Lakshmi ran away from her village life with an abusive husband to make it on her own. This is a difficult task in 1950s India. She makes her way up through society, making sure to always follow the rules and know her place. Pleasing her “ladies” with every visit, and making her henna designs seem like magical cures. All the time, saving money to build her own house. But when Lakshmi’s sister, the one she didn’t know existed, shows up with the husband Lakshmi ran away from 13 years ago, things slowly begin to fall apart. As she tries to navigate the tricky social structures without missing a step, the worst happens, and she finds herself having to decide what family really means and how to best help them. The well-written relationship between Lakshmi and her sister, as well as the errand boy, turns out to be far more important than you think at first. They were incredibly different people, and yet they were very similar as well. As with many families, their relationship isn’t all roses. But you could see how Lakshmi was trying so hard to do what was right. She wanted to give her sister every opportunity that she could possibly have. Lakshmi earns extra money making herbal remedies. Some make sure women who don’t want to be mothers don’t have to be. Many people around her frowned on this practice. And they also shunned her other natural remedies in favor of modern techniques and medicines. This cultural difference between the city and the villages really played a role as Lakshmi’s character developed and she navigated the world around her. The Henna Artist was beautifully written and immersed me in an unfamiliar culture. I loved every second of it. The story unfolds in a way that isn’t all excitement and suspense. It’s peppered with moments that stood out in my mind as I read through it. I highly recommend this book. **I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

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