Friday, November 4, 2011

The Faith of Ashish, by Kay Marshall Strom


Ashish's name means blessing, yet he is an untouchable.  He was born to parents who are untouchables in the early 20th century India.  When Ashish drinks from a cup that is not meant to be touched by an untouchable, his entire world changes.  He suffers a terrible beating, and the only way his family can get medical assistance is for them to become the slaves of a wealthy landowner.  Will his family lose their faith in all that is good?

Having very little knowledge of the caste system in India, I found this book to be fascinating.  I had no idea that the social rules were so rigid among this culture. One thinks of India as what we see in Bollywood movies.  I adored the fact that this portrayed such a honest, realistic story about a social class rarely shown or talked about in art.

I really loved the characters; Ashish is just a child in the book, so his faith is that of a child.  He has no idea what it means for his life and future, the fact that he is an untouchable.  He simply has faith that the world will continue to work the way it always has within his experiences.  An ugly brutal act shows him how little he knows of the world.  Later, when he meets the Christian missionary doctor and nurse, he sees just how little he understands. 

The familial relationship between Ashish and his parents is so tender and heartfelt, the emotions leap from the page. I felt conflicted about the Christian landowner.  In some ways, he is cruel, and greedy.  Yet he tries, in his own mind, to be a good Christian.  Is he a villain, or simply another product of the system into which he was born?

I enjoyed the story immensly, and am anxious to see where the rest of the series will take me.  While this is not the type of story into which I could disappear, it is certainly one which captured my heart.

I received a review copy courtesy of the publisher.



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