Author(s): S.J. LaidlawDownload
A heartbreaking novel that explores the lives and relationship of two very different girls — a resilient Indian girl and a troubled Canadian teen — set in the fifteen lanes that comprise Mumbai’s red light district.Eleven-year-old Noor, who lives in a Mumbai brothel with her mother and siblings, is grateful for the opportunity to go to school, hoping it will give her a chance to escape her fate of following in her mother’s footsteps and being sold into the sex trade. Although she is resilient, capable and wise beyond her years, her life as the eldest daughter of a sex worker is full of struggle and challenge. Living in the same city is Grace, the Canadian teenage daughter of a CEO of one of the largest international banks in India. A child of privilege, Grace faces her own torments when she is cyber-bullied.Told in alternating voices, Fifteen Lanes exposes readers to a shocking and captivating world. When Noor and Grace eventually meet at an NGO support center for women and children, they make a connection that changes their lives.
Some Reviews: 117 in Goodreads.com
Narrated by two teen girls in contemporary Mumbai, Noor the daughter of a sex worker and Grace, a white ex-pat, who eventually meet up when their very different lives reach a crisis point. The main problem is that though Grace’s problems are very challenging, even she understands that they are nothing compared to Noor’s, and this unbalances the book. Nonetheless, it will bring to life an area of the world that Western teens may not be so familiar with, and Noor and the other inhabitants of the Kamathipura neighborhood are vividly drawn. See my full review here.
I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley. I loved that this was a contemporary story set in another country and dealt with an issue that most people in the U.S. don’t think about that often. The story was well written and flowed well, but started off a bit slowly for my taste. I guess I wanted Grace and Noor to meet each other a little sooner. I liked how their lives were so different even though they didn’t live too far apart. I would have liked to see more of VJ’s character. But all in all it was a great read about an important issue.
I enjoyed watching the two protagonists’ stories intersect-both experienced issues/horrors that need to be spoken up about and against. Bravo to Laidlaw for doing that while creating a page turner.
This book had me right from the epigraph (actually it had me before that… it just had to live up to expectations… which it did!) This novel pairs beautifully with Anosh Irani’s The Parcel (which I made sure to read over the holidays before I read this for our school Book Club).
I love that the focus is fundamentally on Noor and her story. I was worried at first how the author was going to bring the second story – Grace’s – to bear on Noor’s, how to make the reader see the similarities in their situations, but she does it simply and believably.
The themes are many: gender status and roles, secrets, hope, privilege and poverty/wealth disparities/juxtaposition, cultural relativism, reproductive choice/access to contraception, the value of human life, HIV/AIDS epidemic, friendship, and so much more.
Ultimately though the novel forces to reader to challenge their own assumptions/beliefs/ biases about the nature of sex work, the ‘value’ of sex workers, and western notions of ‘what to do about the situation’… Clearly there are no easy answers.