About this book: (from the publisher) Lydia’s quiet expat life in Cambodia is dramatically turned upside down by the sudden arrival of Song, a young & vulnerable Vietnamese girl, and the flattering romantic attentions of a handsome, dashing local man. Just as she settles into this new-found happiness, everything is shattered as Song is kidnapped and sold into the child sex trade. Broken, Lydia returns to the UK, confirmed in her doubts about God, only to find the most unexpected guest on her doorstep one night many years later with the most incredible story to tell of hope lost and innocence restored.
About the author: Katherine Blessan lived and worked in Cambodia and draws on this rich experience. She is currently an English teacher and mother of young children, and before this was employed in the publishing industry.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG-13
Reminds me of: The Deliverer and other novels by Kathi Macias
Will especially appeal to: women with a heart for social justice, especially for the issue of sex trafficking
[Tweet “A difficult yet important book that puts a face on the reality of sex trafficking @KathBlessan @IJM”]
Reflection: If you’ve seen the headlines (and no doubt you have), then you know the awful truth: sex trafficking of minors continues to be a very real, very big problem at home and abroad. International Justice Mission (IJM) puts a few numbers to the facts*:
- 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade
- Human trafficking generates about $150 billion a year—two-thirds from commercial sexual exploitation
These numbers are sobering, but stories are what really move us by putting flesh on facts, bringing into sharp focus the horrors that, honestly, we’d rather not acknowledge–depravity that includes victims being beaten, forcibly injected with narcotics, and–in the case of many adults–being forced to watch their own children be physically abused.
Sadly, until these truths are broadly acknowledged, there’s little hope for the situation improving. Increasing awareness is therefore the first step toward initiating change. That’s why I said yes to reading Lydia’s Song.
I’ll be honest with you, this is a hard story to read. While it’s not graphic, it does clearly outline what it means to be trafficked into the sex trade. Its unflinching examination of this reality is what makes Lydia’s Song an important story, and its truth is what delivers its power.
I wish I could recommend it from a literary standpoint, but I’m reluctant to say it didn’t quite hit that mark. To my taste, it lacked the nuance that makes fiction especially compelling. The dialogue, for instance, struck me as stilted, and I had a hard time identifying with the main character, Lydia. Her regrets haunt her so deeply that she’s walled herself behind a barricade of reserve, which I found hard to get past. I also found it odd placing the “contemporary” or real-time storyline in 2036, with flashbacks to 2006, which is when the trafficking occurs. I’m not sure why this timeframe was chosen, except perhaps to illustrate that sex trafficking is a problem today, with ramifications that will reverberate far into the future. Which makes sense, but 2036 is futuristic enough that I would then expect to see portrayed changes in society (technology, fashion, the world scene), but these were not reflected in the story.
I do think–after reading this novel and others like it–that it’s very difficult to make this topic the focal point of a work of fiction. Because the subject is so heavy, it almost seems too great a burden for most fiction to bear. There are exceptions of course, but few fiction readers, I think, will feel compelled to pick up a novel in which the abuse of children–in this case sex trafficking–is the central focus. Better, perhaps, to place it tangential to the main storyline, allowing these important issues to be explored without them being the central theme.
On the other hand, I do appreciate that faith, hope, and restoration also form part of the message of Lydia’s Song, providing a welcome reminder that no circumstance, regardless how horrific, is beyond God’s redeeming power.
Thanks to the author for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
*per IJM data