Book review: A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison


by Sindhu Ravuri

A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison is a chilling and heart-wrenching fiction that follows the terrifying journey of two sisters as they are forced into the world of one of the largest underground businesses today: human trafficking.

The book starts with the story of a traditional upper middle class South Indian family that holds tight bonds and moral values. Sisters Ahalya and Sita live peacefully in the beachfront of the Tamilnadu shores with their parents, until one day a tsunami strikes and drowns the entire family except the two teenage girls.

A Walk Across the Sun not only discusses the horrors of sex trafficking, but also emphasizes the values of love, beliefs, and hope. It touches the souls of readers, who realize that if horrible tragedies such as those described in the book can happen to a stable middle class family like the Ghais, then they can happen to anybody. The greed, indifference, and cruelty with which the ruthless sex-traffickers sell girls as commodities are shocking. Reading about these appalling crimes truly changes one’s perspective of the world.

By elegantly depicting various aspects of the sex trade, Addison excellently brings out compassion and sadness in the reader without being hard-hitting or judgmental.

In one particular scene that brings tears to the reader’s eyes, Ahalya is “broken” by her buyer: “Sita [sits] in the darkness of the stairwell, weeping at the sounds of her sister’s violation. Her sister has always been her fortress, her protector,…now it was Sita’s turn to comfort and protect.”

In his novel, Addison embodies his real-life personality in the character of Thomas Clarke. Across the globe in Washington D.C., Clarke is a lawyer, like Addison, who is distressed by a broken marriage, a troubled career, and the death of his six months old baby girl. The abduction of a 12-year-old girl right in front of his eyes by sex-traffickers proves to be his last straw. He travels to India on a pro bono sabbatical with CASE, a fictional organization in Mumbai, India, to help as a lawyer and work on getting his wife back. During a rescue operation by CASE, he becomes engrossed in the story of Ahalya and Sita and sets about to rescue Sita upon the request of Ahalya.

The journey of Sita and Thomas becomes the journey of the readers, who also become involved in the girl’s trauma, vexation, and suffering. The readers’ blood boils, tears well, heart beats, and hope rises as they too are swept away with young Sita’s emotions. The book reminds readers that slavery did not end 150 years ago, as some history textbooks might teach; it simply took a different turn.

A Walk Across the Sun, published in the US, the UK, and by Penguin in India, is a novel based on real life. The book has been sold in 15 translation markets, and will be out in Brazil in August, Norway in September. It is available here in all major bookstores and libraries. It received a huge critical acclaim throughout the world and a special forward by author John Grisham who says it is, ”A novel that is beautiful in its story and also important in its message.”

In observance of national human trafficking awareness day, January 11, TalonWP has published a series of articles relating to the subject: an interview with author Corban Addison and a review of his book A Walk Across the Sun.