I love books set in countries I am not so familiar with. In particular, I love books set in India. India is a country that fascinates me from the food to the fashion and the very friendly people. Unfortunately, I haven’t visited yet, at least in a way that was not through the pages of a book, like this next review.
Elastic Girl by Olivia Rana tells the story of Muthu Tikaram, a young girl whose grandmother believes she is cursed because of an incident which happened before she was even born. Muthu is well aware of her lower status in the family and escapes her harsh reality with dreams of being a star. Muthu believes her dreams are finally coming true when she is sold by her father to The Great Raman Circus of Chennai. Sadly, what Muthu enters is another life of despair. Planning her escape to Mumbai with her friend Gloria, the reader is left wondering if Muthu will ever get the life she yearns for.
Elastic Girl is such a unique story and I absolutely loved it. The tone of the story, and indeed Muthu’s life, is set right away in the prologue as the family decide that Muthu is cursed and they speak of their disappointment that she is not a boy. This cruel treatment continues throughout the entire book and it was really sad to read how a little child could be treated so badly by her family. However, this element serves a better purpose for the reader as it helps build up a protective instinct for Muthu and has us rooting for her all the way.
Another character I was rooting for was Gloria, Muthu’s circus colleague. Gloria is such a lovely person and almost fills that motherly role that Muthu is missing. Gloria looks out for the younger members of the circus as unfortunately it is not the dream life circus leader Mr. Prem builds it up to be when recruiting new members.
I felt that I learned a bit more about the traditions, beliefs and superstitions of India because of this book. Some were interesting to know but didn’t really have any impact on the story but others were a bit harder to get my head around. For instance, there are many male/female relationships in this book, some forced and some not but mostly with a common thread – all the females involved were very young, under the age of consent in Europe. This had my brain whirring with questions like “is this common practice in India?” and “is it widely accepted?” and I have been spurred on to research the country further. I can’t say right now if everything written about India in this book is factual but overall, it does seem very well researched so it could be safe to give the author the benefit of the doubt. But underage relationships is not the only hard-hitting topic the author focus on it. Rape and child trafficking are also at the forefront of Elastic Girl. These elements of the story are certainly not an easy read but are handled very well by the author, in my opinion.
Overall, I found this to be a really great book. Who knows if there will be a sequel but I would love to know how Muthu’s life turned out. Until then, I recommend everybody to go read Elastic Girl.