A Walk Across the Sun begins with the quote “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another” – Mother Teresa of Calcutta – and it is dedicated to “the unaccountable number of souls held captive in the sex trade” and “the heroic men and women across the globe working tirelessly to win their freedom.” This novel is the story of sister orphans Ahalya and Sita who are abducted and sold to a Mumbai brothel owner to work in the sex trade at ages 17 and 15. Attorney Thomas Clarke of Washington, D.C. decides to pursue a pro bono sabbatical working in India to prosecute human trafficers and tries to rescue Ahalya and Sita.
A tsunami ravages their town of Chennai, and the two sisters begin finding bodies on the beach, including that of their father Nanesh and their mother Ambini. The rest of their family relatives have died also. Ahalya and Sita flee, taking a photo of the family and a box of gold jewelry, hoping to get to St. Mary’s. A man named Kanan takes them in a truck and “Ahalya clutched the satchel tightly. Without hesitation, the young man backhanded her across the face. Ahalya’s cheek smarted from the blow and she tasted blood on her lip. Beside her, Sita began to whimper. The violence had been sudden and shocking. Ahalya handed over the bag” and the young man takes all their jewelry and brings them to his family home where his wife Chako gives them tranquilizers and they fall asleep. The two sisters are sold for ten thousand rupees and sent to Suchir’s brothel in Bombay.
As a virgin, Ahalya is first sold by Suchir to a customer, for ninety thousand ruppees. Sumeera, Suchir’s wife, tells her, “What you have experienced is difficult. The shame is natural. All feel it the first time. But you will survive. You will learn to accept it.” In their “prison of boredom and fear” Sumeera tells them “Desire is the enemy….Desire for the past, desire for the future, desire for love, desire for family. Everything. A beshya has to detach herself from all affections and accept her karma. You will never be happy here. But you don’t need to be sad.” Younger sister Sita is taken away to “a flat in Bombay with a strange man who dealt in drugs” and separated from her sister. She is forced to become a mule, swallowing passed condom pellets filled with heroin and “If a condom ruptures, the heroin will send your body into shock and you could die.” As for Ahalya, “Her only desire was to reunite with Sita. Life had lost all other meaning.” After the brothel she’s in is raided, Ahalya ends up in an orphanage run by Sister Ruth. Meanwhile, attorney Thomas Clarke, whose wife Priya has gone back to India, follows Priya there and begins working in the courts.
How Thomas Clarke tries to help Ahalya and Sita is the crux of Corban Addison’s story. Sita is sent to New Jersey, but Ahalya never gives up the hope of finding her, having given Thomas Clarke their family photo. Ahalya grows a lotus in a pot for Sita, awaiting her return.
Will the two sisters be reunited and will Sita be freed from the sex trade? A man who sells young girls, Dietrich Klein, tells Sita, “You are not here because I enjoy the sale of sex. You are here because men enjoy the purchase of it. I’m simply the broker. Some businessmen sell objects. Others sell knowledge. I sell fantasies. it is all the same.”
A Walk Across The Sun, by Corban Addison, published on January 3, 2012 by Silver Oak Sterling Publishing, 384 pages.
Reviewed by Christina Zawadiwsky
Christina Zawadiwsky is Ukrainian-American, born in New York City, has a degree in Fine Arts, and is
a poet, artist, journalist and TV producer. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award, two Wisconsin Arts Boards Awards, a Co-Ordinating Council of Literary Magazines Writers Award, and an Art Futures Award, among other honors. She was the originator and producer of Where The Waters Meet, a local TV series created to facilitate the voices of artists of all genres in the media, for which she won two national and twenty local awards, including a Commitment to Community Television Award. She is also a contributing editor to the annual Pushcart Prize Anthology, the recipient of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and has published four books of poetry. She currently reviews movies for http://www.filmsay.com, music for http://www.musicroomreviews.com, and books for http://www.bookroomreviews.com.