The henna artist at the core of Alka Joshi’s superb first novel is unforgettable. Through her work painting henna onto women's bodies in the boudoirs of the upper class as well as in the hovels of the poor, Lakshmi brings us face to face with the complexity of life in post-independence India. Her plans for self-sufficiency, which are as artful as her designs, have us cheering for her even as she encounters obstacles that threaten to destroy her. Read this book slowly and savor it: Every page is rich with intricate pleasures for both the mind and the heart.
Bestselling Author of The Blood of Flowers and Equal of the Sun
The Henna Artist is like a brilliant, magical kaleidoscope, bursting with color. Through her vivid, compelling portrait of one woman's struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, debut novelist Alka Joshi opens a door into a world that is at once lush, fascinating, stark, and cruel. "The Henna Artist" kept me riveted from start to finish, consumed by the question posed by all great fiction: what happens next?
New York Times Bestselling author of And After the Fire and City of Light.
Alka Joshi is a remarkable new writer with the novelistic gifts of a seasoned veteran. The Henna Artist is a bold, ambitious, beautifully written novel, about India in the decade after independence, and about class, identity, love, and deceit. The broad cast of characters will etch themselves in your psyche, most of all Lakshmi and Radha—both cursed and gifted by fate.
New York Times Bestselling author of Stay Up With Me and Dakota Winters
Born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, Alka has lived in the U.S. since the age of nine. She graduated from Stanford University and worked in the fields of advertising and PR before starting her own marketing consultancy. In 2011, she obtained her MFA in Creative Writing from the California College of Arts in San Francisco, California. The Henna Artist is her first novel.
Alka shares her writing and publishing process on her YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqNLMIc32Z-y4hzkiE3o6rQ
Escaping from an arranged and abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone from her 1950s rural village to the vibrant pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the henna artist—and confidante—most in demand to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…
Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.
Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.
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