Sold Summary

Patricia McCormick


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Sold Summary

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Sold is a 2006 young adult novel by American author Patricia McCormick. Told in a series of short vignettes from the perspective of the main character, it is the story of a Nepali girl named Lakshmi who is sold into sexual slavery in India. The book follows her struggles as she battles to survive the harsh climates and abuse, and manages to keep her spirit and sanity intact as she attempts to escape and regain her freedom. Exploring gender-based discrimination in Indian culture, as well as themes of lies and deceit, corruption, and the ultimate strength of virtues such as innocence, hope, education, and friendship,Sold received positive reviews for its vivid and in-depth look at an unfamiliar world and its unflinching depiction of Lakshmi’s struggles. It received multiple awards and nominations, including being an ALA Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults winner in 2007, and a National Book Award finalist that same year. It also won the California Young Reader Medal in 2007. In 2014, Sold was adapted into a feature film by Academy Award-winning short-film director Jeffrey D. Brown, which won multiple awards at film festivals around the world.

As Sold begins, Lakshmi is twelve years old and has lived her whole life in a small village on a mountain in Nepal. She has a mother named Ama, a lazy gambler for a stepfather, a baby brother, and a beloved goat named Tali. She has hopes and dreams for her future, works hard to be the top student in her small school, and dreams of earning money as a maid in the city, like her friend Gita, so her family won’t be poor anymore. However, nature conspires against her family that year. Heavy rains wash all the rice away, leaving Lakshmi and her family poorer than ever. Lakshmi’s stepfather decides it’s time for her to earn her keep, and sends her to the city to work, accompanied by her Auntie Bimla, whom she barely knows. Her stepfather gives Auntie Bimla money and sends her on her way. As she travels, Lakshmi sees a vast world she never imagined in her small village. She is filled with excitement for her future. Auntie Bimla then introduces Lakshmi to a man called Uncle Husband. He takes Lakshmi to a place called Happiness House in India. He hands money to a woman named Mumtaz, and a terrified Lakshmi is taken inside to a small room. Soon afterwards, a man walks in and attempts to rape her. Though she flees her attacker in a panic, she is caught by Mumtaz. Mumtaz explains that she’s been sold to Happiness House, a brothel run by Mumtaz. She must have sex with men until her debt is paid off. When Lakshmi refuses, she is locked in a small room, starved, and beaten. Eventually, when their efforts to break Lakshmi’s will continue to fail, Mumtaz drugs her and lets men have their way with her while she’s unconscious.

After Lakshmi is raped for the first time, she’s kept in the small room alone for a long time, and spends most of her time drugged so she can be used. Finally, Mumtaz lets her out to join the main brothel where the other enslaved girls live. She attempts to adjust to life in Happiness House, but is desperately homesick. Shahanna, a fellow Nepali girl and one of the most mature, becomes protective towards Lakshmi and introduces her to the other girls in the brothel. Shilpa is a veteran of the sex trade and has risen to be Mumtaz’second in command, spying on the other girls for her. Monica is aggressive and prickly. Anita made an escape attempt once, and was beaten so badly she still bears the scars on her face. Pushpa is one of the oldest women there, and arrived after her husband died. Her two young children, Harish and Jeena also live in the house. Harish catches Lakshmi looking at his schoolbook once and secretly begins to teach her Hindi. The two become friends, although Lakshmi is wary of everyone. Slowly, she starts becoming used to life in the house. However, one by one the women in the house earn their freedom while she is left behind. Her newfound friends disappear and Lakshmi only has Anita and the storybook she got from Harish to keep her spirits up. She starts sinking into despair. One day, Shilpa reveals to Lakshmi that none of the money she earns is actually sent to her family in Nepal, and Mumtaz has no intention of letting her go. Lakshmi knows she has to escape. She gives an American’s business card to a kind street kid, and waits for another American to show up. When one arrives at the brothel, he helps her make plans for her escape. He contacts some non-corrupt policemen and an American woman. Lakshmi, who is now fourteen years old, tells the American man her name and age, and she is finally taken away from Happiness House, having survived her ordeal.

Patricia McCormick is an American author and journalist, best known as a writer of realistic fiction for young adults. She has written for diverse outlets including the New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, and Readers Digest. She has published six books over her career between 2000 and 2013, with both Never Fall Down and Sold being finalists for the National Book Award. She is perhaps best known for her work with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, whose memoir I Am Malala debuted in 2013 to massive acclaim and commercial success.