• Shea Robinson

The Henna Artist Book Review

Updated: Mar 23

Welcome to another Crawford’s Mysteries and More! Book Club Novel Review. Novels read in book club will fall into the following categories: Detective (crime is solved by a detective/police officer), Cozy (no violence), Caper (told from the criminal’s POV), and More (not strictly a mystery)!

Category: More! Snow Flower-a story that takes you on a journey

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

I was not prepared to enjoy The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi as much as I did—I made the mistake of reading the dust jacket. I don’t like to read novel summaries because they’re designed to sell me the juiciest parts of the novel, rather than the story I’m actually about to read. Dust jackets try to provide you with the rush of exhilaration from riding a rollercoaster, while you’re still standing in line. They think they can provide you the enjoyment of eating that last bit of ice cream cone where all the ice cream has pooled to the tip, before you’ve ordered it at the counter. It sounds great, but leaves you feeling empty. Ignoring my doubts, I opened to the first page and was immediately imbedded in the story.

Joshi tells you a tale that makes you want to keep the pages turning. Lakshmi is a henna artist by trade, weaving her way into high society as she weaves promises of the future in her henna. Her clients adore her and are astounded by her art. They say she has the gift of prophecy. But even she couldn't see what would happen when the teenage sister she never knew arrives on her doorstep. The life she worked so hard to rebuild starts to unravel as the intricacy of a child's naivete clashes with the supposed order of the high class. While I tend to avoid books that contain domestic violence, I appreciated that Joshi gave us the background without the overwhelm. In this case, the domestic violence is the catalyst for the protagonist's agency to build her own life by her own rules, but there are no heavy descriptions of the life she led prior to her becoming The Henna Artist of Jaipur. (Another reason why the book jacket is a total red herring).

This isn't a mystery, and yet you are intrigued to learn what will happen next. This isn't a thriller, and yet you don't feel safe in your presumption that everything will turn out okay in the end. The drama lies in the relationship between Lakshmi and her younger sister, Radha; two generations of women raised in trauma whose lives intersect in heartbreaking ways. As we kick off 2021, what better way to celebrate than with this beautiful story of sisterhood, entrepreneurial spirit, and female agency.

Add this to your book list soon! The Henna Artist is Crawford's Books February Book Club pick. Grab your copy today and then join the virtual meeting on February 11, from 6:30-7:30pm.

Interested in what the Mysteries and More Book Club is reading? Check out past reviews and what’s on the horizon: 1/14 Magpie Murders, 2/11 The Henna Artist, 3/11 Mr. Mercedes, 4/8 And Justice There is None, 5/13 The Song of Achilles, 6/10 The Big Sleep, 7/8 The Ice Princess, 8/12 The Devil and the Dark Water, 9/9 A Duty to the Dead, 10/14 Long Bright River, 11/11 The Guest List, 12/ 9 American Dirt

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