Saturday, October 17, 2009

Book Review Musings: The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine

Goodreads Description of The Blue Notebook:
A haunting yet astonishingly hopeful story of a young Indian prostitute who uses writing and imagination to transcend her reality.

An unforgettable, deeply affecting tribute to the powers of imagination and the resilience of childhood, The Blue Notebook tells the story of Batuk, a precocious 15-year-old girl from rural India who was sold into sexual slavery by her father when she was nine. As she navigates the grim realities of the Common Street—a street of prostitution in Mumbai where children are kept in cages as they wait for customers to pay for sex—Batuk manages to put pen to paper, recording her private thoughts and stories in a diary. The novel is powerfully told in Batuk’s voice, through the words she writes in her journal, where she finds hope and beauty in the bleakest circumstances.

Beautifully crafted and deeply human, The Blue Notebook explores how people, in the most difficult of situations, can use storytelling to make sense of and give meaning to their lives. All of the U.S. proceeds from this novel will be donated to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children (

My Review:
This may be one of the most difficult books I've read in a long time. It certainly took me back to my days working with sexual assault victims all day. Heartbreaking, poignant, beautiful, compelling, and riviting. I finished it 2 days ago and wasn't really able to review it until now because the images from the novel have stuck with me and given me so much to think about.

This is certainly not a pleasurable read but it is definitely one that will open your eyes to the issue of violence against children. I feel fairly educated on the topic given my years of work in the field, but I got a great deal out of this book. The beautiful way that this story is written makes Batuk and her experiences come alive. There were moments that I felt I was there with her, in part because of how well the author was able to describe each moment with simplicity and brilliance. I don't tend to cry as I read. I tend to be emotional, yes, but not to the point of tears. This book was an exception. There were moments that I just had to lay the book down and cry for this girl and all of the other girls like her in the world. There were other moments where I was sick to my stomach to see what this girl went through - how powerless she was to control her body, her life, her future. It was truly heartbreaking. But, I am so glad that I read this story and got to know this amazing (fictional) girl.

I don't think this is a book for everyone - if you are uncomfortable reading about brutal, uncomfortable situations then you may want to avoid it. Ultimately, this is a book about child prostitution, sexual abuse, physical abuse and violence in general. It is not a happy book. It is not an uplifting book. It is, however, a wonderful story that gives you insight into the day to day life of a girl who (like many, many other girls throughout the world) is essentially a slave to the wants, needs and desires of the people around her. She finds what little control she can in the world around her through writing.As difficult as it is to read, I think its important for us to all see the raw ugliness that is not unusual in our world. And to think about what WE can do to try to help eliminate this kind of violence against children.

In addition, 100% of the American proceeds of the book will go to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

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