Random Review Monday is a weekly meme, run by me, Reeka at BoundbyWords. Each week, I will choose a book from the fiction shelves at work (local bookstore), by simply closing my eyes, and pointing! I will read the book within the week, and review it the following Monday. This gives me a chance to get out of my comfort zone, and hopefully find some hidden gems!
Title: The Bracelet
Author: Roberta Gately
Release Date: Nov 6/2012
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Page Count: 304
Acquired: Work Borrow
Read From: Jan 31- Feb 3/2013
Newly heartbroken and searching for purpose in her life, Abby Monroe is determined to make her mark as a UN worker in one of the world's most unstable cities: Peshawar, Pakistan. But after witnessing the brutal murder of a woman thrown from a building, she is haunted by the memory of an intricate and sparkling bracelet that adorned the victim's wrist. At a local women's shelter, Abby meets former sex slaves who have miraculously escaped their captors.
As she gains the girls' trust and documents their horrifying accounts of unspeakable pain and betrayal, she joins forces with a dashing "New York Times "reporter who believes he can incriminate the shadowy leader of the vicious human trafficking ring. Inspired by the women's remarkable bravery--and the mysterious reappearance of the bracelet-- the duo traces evidence that spreads from remote villages of South Asia to the most powerful corners of the West, risking their lives to offer a voice to the countless innocents in bondage.
Oh lookie! There goes my faith in humanity again..*waves goodbye for the millionth time this month*. This book pried my eyes open, yes, PRIED. I was aware of the horrors of human trafficking before ( a 32 BILLION dollar profit for these sick bastards!!), but not through such personal accounts, and I definitely did not feel the level of sickness, and disgust, that this book allowed me to feel. Roberta Gately included some heart-wrenching stories of pain in these pages, so I will start off with that warning.
We open with the main character, Abby Monroe, witnessing a horrific "murder" on her morning run through the streets of Geneva, Switzerland, before her big career move to Pakistan. A woman is apparently thrown to her death from an apartment balcony, but all Abby seems to be able to focus on, once she makes it to the body, is a beautifully adorned bracelet. This bracelet is then retrieved from her "murderer," as Abby watches in fear from some nearby bushes. I understood her need to hide-she was alone, and terrified for her own life-but this act of hiding, and the fact that she could not lead the police to the correct street afterwards, pretty much placed her nicely in my "I don't think I'm going to like you very much" holding cell. She instantly came off as cowardly and aloof.
Skip forward, we find Abby in the currently riotous city of Peshawar, Pakistan. She believes this career move is for the best, she is anxious to help, and even more anxious to get over her failing relationship with ex-boyfriend, Eric. At this point, I already know that the intense scene at the beginning of the book has incorrectly set the tone for the remainder of it. The rest of the story reads like a romance novel, interspersed with moments of panic, and information about the all-too-present act of human trafficking within the city, and beyond. Abby is completely oblivious to this illegal trade, and makes that excruciatingly obvious with her outbursts of "Jesus!" and other such nonsense. I couldn't wrap my head around that for a SECOND. She is an employee of the UN, how could she possibly be so uneducated about the act? It's extremely unrealistic for her to have established the position she's in without any former knowledge of this, OR the country she seems to have just been "dumped" into.
There was so much potential here, though I feel as though the author only scratched the surface. The subject matter was intense, deep, and highly controversial, but the story line fell short, and read too easily. I was very humbled, and stricken by the first-hand accounts of the abuse and humiliation experienced by the girls in this book, and I think the author did an excellent job of driving that point home-allowing the readers to really wake up and consider the world around them. Though I also think, at the same time, she made too light of something that deserves much more heart, and seriousness.
For example, in this exchange, Abby, reporter Nick, and caretaker Zara are listening to a victim of trafficking, Mariyah, tell her story. Keep in mind, she revisits moments of rape, SEVERE abuse, and even mutilation:
"Clothes washing too. Boss woman take in laundry. She get the money, but we do the work. Scrub clothes and press wrinkles away. Clothes for rich women who no do own laundry. At night, husbands of rich women come to us. Rich women do nothing."
Zara suppressed a giggle. "You were taking care of the whole family"
REALLY!? You suppressed a GIGGLE about that!? How about you throw up instead!? Which would have been the response of every other sane human being listening to that story. I just..I didn't understand how the author could possibly have thought it was okay to break up the horror with attempted humor. I know these women were trying to live normal lives now, to find happiness and meaning, but that line was just uncalled for, and made me horribly disgusted.
I want to end this review by reiterating a point that another reviewer made that matched my own thoughts. THE COVER: why is the model a white female? Perhaps the author was attempting to keep it consistent with the cover of her previous novel, Lipstick in Afghanistan, which also depicts a white female. I think the model should have better reflected the woman who actually wore the bracelet: olive-skinned, and of east Indian descent.
The characters were pretty one-dimensional, the story line predictable, and the tone completely off in relation to the subject matter. However, I learned a lot about something I only knew a little about previously, so I can't fault this book completely.