I absolutely adored this heartbreaking yet hopeful middle grade novel. Viji and Rukku, two young sisters, run away from an abusive home and find their way living on the streets of Chennai, one of the big cities in India. Rukku, with her developmental disability, is often more trusting of people, and can be particular in what she is willing to do. Viji is willing to do almost anything, besides disrespect herself or her sister, to get by. She winds up with a couple of young boys, and they form a protective and supportive group. Together they adopt a dog, find ways to make money, and create unbreakable bonds of love and friendship.
This novel did me in with how heartbreaking it was. I read Venkatraman’s note at the end, looking for information on how she was able to tell such a beautiful and devastating story. Venkatraman said she based the story on some of her own experiences and the experiences of people she knows, which makes this book all the more special for sharing a glimpse of what it might be like to be a homeless kid on the streets in India.
There is a lot of adventure in the short pages of this book, as they meet different people, some good, some bad, and find places where they can exist outside the bounds of typical society. There are a lot of images and sensory descriptions of their journey, which I believe was all the more important in sharing Viji and Rukku’s experience accurately. Venkatraman gave meaning to their lives where some may not have found any.
I felt a strong connection with all of the characters, and felt as though they were all friends of mine in the end. The scenes with their dog Kutti made me particularly sad (don’t worry, he doesn’t die in the end!), as I have always had such a strong connection with my own dogs. The way they all care so passionately for each other was such a beautiful part of this story.
I received this book via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.