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Small deaths : a novel
2022
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Library Journal Review
Lalee has dreams, but she is trapped by her life as a sex worker at the Blue Lotus, a brothel in Kolkata's red-light district. Tilu, a middling erotic fiction writer, becomes one of Lalee's loyal customers and dreams of giving her a better life. When a fellow sex worker is found murdered, Lalee is invited to take her place and work with higher-end clients at the Blue Lotus. Soon, however, both Lalee and Tilu are caught up in a web of violence, secrets, and corruption. Deepa Samuel gives an evenly paced, yet emotionally rich narration of the novel, bringing depth to the many characters who make up the bustling city. Samuel provides unique voices for each character, allowing listeners to easily distinguish between them and better understand their perspectives. Das's debut tackles heavy topics such as sex work and human trafficking, making for a harrowing and affecting listen. VERDICT Although the subject matter is difficult, this book offers a glimpse into a world many listeners will never see, making it an important addition to any audiobook collection.--Elyssa Everling
Publishers Weekly Review
Das's searing debut centers on the plight of sex workers in contemporary Calcutta, India. Cell phones now enable sex workers to make their own deals, so pimps and madams have been forced to diversify their activities, bribe more officials, and take harsh measures against those who flout their "arrangements." One night at the Blue Lotus, an infamous red-light establishment run by autocratic Shefali Madam, Maya, a high-end escort, is murdered, her throat cut with a broken bottle. Shafali Madam asks Maya's friend Lalee, sold into prostitution at seven by her father, to replace Maya. Lalee and Tilu Shau, a low caste writer of erotic fiction who loves Lalee, are drawn into a complex world of vicious religious chicanery being secretly investigated by the Sex Workers' Collective. Das effectively reveals a painful paradox: the exploited workers frequently consider the brothel their only home in a land that can "overwhelm one with kindness one minute and skin you alive the next." This devastating novel is in turn touching and painful to read. Das, a Bengali-to-English translator, is definitely a writer to watch. Agent: Maria Cardona Serra, Pontas Agency. (Sept.)
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