A Walk Across the Sun by first-time novelist Corban Addison completely turned my world upside down, not only because it's an incredible story but because for the first time since I've started writing book recommendations, I am about to commit adjective abuse.
First let me say I am completely jaded every time I pick up a DVD or book and the back cover is splashed with overused words like "riveting", "heart-stopping," and "gripping". Worse yet is when these words are jammed into one sentence, as if the writer just plugged in every synonym an online search could drum up. But now I understand.
The story opens in a coastal town in India; the Ghai family is just beginning their morning routine when -- without warning -- the unthinkable happens. A tsunami wipes out most of the community, leaving 17-year-old Ahalya and her 15-year-old sister Sita orphaned, homeless and confused. By chance they run into a family friend who offers them a ride to their boarding school farther inland. Rather than finding refuge, however, they are thrust into an evil underworld of drugs, violence and human trafficking.
Halfway across the world, attorney Thomas Clarke is standing at a personal and professional crossroads when he witnesses the abduction of a young girl in North Carolina. Haunted by the fact that he was as helpless as preventing the crime as he was his own infant daughter's recent death, Clarke is at a personal low when the high-profile case he's been working on suddenly turns sour. At his firm's request, he leaves his home Washington, D.C., to serve a yearlong sabbatical at a non-government organization in Bombay and quickly becomes enmeshed in the NGO's war on India's sex trade.
Meanwhile Ahalya and Sita are trapped in a living nightmare; bought and sold by brothel owners and drug runners like nameless animals. Theirs becomes a horror spanning three continents, and an unbelievable tale about just how bad people can treat other people. The girls' future seems hopeless; they're unaware that an American they've never met has made it his personal mission to free them.
The chapters flip-flop between Clarke's personal journey and the young girls' saga, which makes for quite an emotional roller coaster. Herein lays my need for adjectives: this book is truly a page-turner. I found myself reading faster and faster with every high and (almost) throwing the book across the room at the lows. I cheered the good guys and booed the bad. It's suspenseful, provocative and chilling. Although the topics are hard think about, the author did a tremendous job of portraying the characters without being graphic.
While this book was well out of my comfort zone, I truly enjoyed it. Some of the situations these young girls were forced into made me a little uncomfortable, but the way the story was written was intriguing. I kept my fingers crossed that the human spirit would prevail even in the worst conditions. Whether it did or didn't, I won't give away the ending; you'll have to find that out yourself, adjectives and all.
Recommended by Priscilla Garvin