The best thing about having friends who love to read is that they pass along books. A co-worker purchased A Walk Across the Sun at our company’s yearly book sale. She ranted and raved about how much she enjoyed it. Of course I had to read it as soon as she passed it my way.
A Walk Across the Sun takes place in India. Seventeen year-old Ahalya Ghai and her 15-year-old sister Sita are left orphaned after a tsunami kills their family and leaves them orphaned. Traumatized and homeless, Ahalya and Sita travel to a nearby village to seek help. Instead of getting assistance, the sisters are kidnapped and sold into the sex trade.
In Washington, D.C., attorney Thomas Clarke, is battling his own demons. Not only did his wife leave him, he is struggling emotionally with the death of his child and dealing with issues at his law firm. In an effort to regroup and figure out his life, he moves to India to work for an NGO that prosecutes the subcontinent’s human traffickers. Exposed to the corrupt world of sex slaves, Thomas becomes involved in a case that will bring him, Ahalya and Sita together.
For me this book was about surviving. Ahalya and Sita come from a well-to-do family. Its hard to imagine going through something as traumatic as a tsunami, being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Even during the darkest times, the sisters still managed to keep it together by holding on to their faith.
As a first time novelist, Addison ability to write a fictional story based on fact was outstanding. The story explores a taboo subject that most media outlets don’t cover. The sex trade is a billion dollar business that exploits women every day. Although most women are kidnapped and sold, some are promised jobs as nannies and housekeepers to lure them in. Addison accurate portrayal of what happens to these women makes the reader nauseous.
The book basically pissed me off. I couldn’t imagine this going on every day. The film Taken with Liam Nessen gave us a glimpse into the world of human trafficking. It inhumane what people do to each other.
I highly recommend this book.
In an email interview, Corban Addison answers a few questions about his novel.
Why did get the idea of writing a novel about the sex trade?
My wife and I watched a film in 2008 that bright the issue of human trafficking home for us. It prompted a conversation about the prevalence of trafficking in the U.S., and it led us to ask a simple question: Now that we know, what are we going to do about it. I’d been practicing law for a number of years and moonlighting as an aspiring novelist. Nothing I’d written to that point had gotten any interest from literary agents. A couple of months after watching the film, my wife had the idea for the novel. She suggested I set aside my other projects and write a story that would humanize and personalize the issue of trafficking for readers of fiction around the world. I thought it was a brilliant idea and so I ran with it.
How familiar were you about the sex trade and how much research did you do?
At the beginning, my knowledge of the trade was very limited. My research was an immersion experience. I read everything I could get my hands on. I connected with the experts here in the U.S., in Europe and in India. And then I traveled to the various settings in the book and spent time with investigators, social workers, lawyers, and activists working on the ground combatting child trafficking. I wrote the story in A Walk Across the Sun from those experiences and from the stories I read about in the literature. It’s fiction, but it’s based on real life.
Thomas Clarke has to overcome a lot of personal demons in the book. How did you shape his character to make sure he wasn’t one dimensional?
Thomas is a good guy at heart, but he struggles in the story with challenging life circumstances and the clash between his ambitions and his love for his wife. It’s a common story in a way, especially among professional men who strive to advance in their careers but long for a meaningful family life. It’s not easy to find a balance, and it creates natural tension and conflict. Tragedy compounds the situation, as does infidelity. I brought all of those streams together in a multi-cultural context that I found fascinating to write about.
Ahalya and Sita’s strength was amazing. In writing those characters, how did you flush out their personalities?
Most people who survive terrible situations tell us afterward that they aren’t really heroes. They just found strength in themselves that they didn’t know existed, strength that all of us has but that we are rarely forced to rely on. Ahalya and Sita found that strength in their own way, both through memory and the hope of reunion with each other. They dallied with despair, of course, and they felt the horror and pain of their situation. But they never quite gave up hope, largely because they had each other.
From lawyer to writer, how did you make the transition?
My work as an attorney gave me excellent training for my work as an advocate. That’s how I think about what I’m doing: it’s a marriage between artistry and advocacy. I write stories about issues of international human rights both to raise awareness among my readers and to compel conscientious action. I’m honored to have the chance to do what I’m doing now, and I hope to be able to continue it with many more books.
Are you working on anything else?
My second novel, The Garden of Burning Sand, will be released in the U.S. in Spring, 2014. It deals with interconnected human rights issues in Southern Africa and the U.S. and is part African mystery, part legal thriller, and part American family drama. Right now, I’m starting to research my third book, also justice-related. The plan is for it to be released in Spring, 2015.