A Disobedient Girl: A Novel by Ru Freeman (Atria, July 21, 2009), 384 pages
Set in Sri Lanka, A Disobedient Girl follows Latha, a young servant girl in the Vithanages’ home, and, separately, Biso, a woman who takes her three young children and flees a drunken abusive husband and a fishing community where people whisper when she walks by.
This book is about the role and place of women; about how we are too often defined by our role, our job. About motherhood and loss.
The writing is vivid, mindful of all the senses, at one point commenting on the mouth feel of a word. Freeman does a good job of using Sri Lankan words (I’m guessing they’re words in the country’s official language of Sinhalese, but I’m not sure) and translating them, in context, without it being awkward and without the book being twice as long as it otherwise could be.
While I don’t understand the choices these women made, I can begin to understand the helpless, stuck feeling their choices sometimes stemmed from. And the regret they felt over some past actions. I may not go so far as to call them sympathetic characters, but I think they are realistically drawn.
A Disobedient Girl is haunting, tragic. It has stayed with me. I could see what was coming and hoped I was wrong, but I wasn’t.
I’m tempted to call this women’s fiction, a classification I don’t think I like. This book rises a bit above that crowd, though, as it draws attention to societal issues and failures.
Ru Freeman’s website and blog. Freeman was born into a family of writers in Colombo, Sri Lanka. After a year of informal study at Murdoch University in Australia, she arrived in the United States to attend Bates College in Maine. She completed her master’s in labor relations at the University of Colombo and worked in the field of American and international humanitarian assistance and workers’ rights. She calls both Sri Lanka and America home and writes about the people and countries underneath her skin.
Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for A Disobedient Girl.