An American expatriate connects with a girl from the streets while living in India.
In this novel, Breece (Finding This Place, 2009) draws on her own experiences as a globe-trotting executive in creating the character of Claire Kaine. Claire moves to India in 1995 to build one of the first call centers in that nation, “a telecom system that will revolutionize communications in Mumbai.” As Claire finds her way around Mumbai, she encounters a group of street children and forms a bond with one, a 3-year-old who answers to Shakti. The broadly focused narrative moves between Claire’s story and those of Shakti, whose father abandoned her once a son was born, and her protector, Radeeka, who started living on the streets after her parents’ deaths. Claire—with the help of her boyfriend, Keir Keefe, a doctor and fellow expatriate—gets more closely involved with the two girls and ends up rescuing them from street life and learning where they came from. Radeeka is returned to the couple her parents chose as her guardians, and Shakti lives in a school community until Claire is able to adopt her. Claire also goes through a spiritual awakening as she gets to know India and comes to terms with the loss of a daughter many years earlier. The new blended family that Keir and Claire create provides additional happiness. Minor but frequent typos and errors (for example, “radiate” instead of radiant; “Ganeash” instead of Ganesha) detract somewhat from the generally strong and straightforward writing. But Breece presents a detailed portrait of India from a Westerner’s perspective (“The mass of humanity teeming beyond the hotel entrance, a cacophony of horns blaring in the intense dusty heat, buses, taxis, scooters, trucks, auto rickshaws, and men shouting behind ox carts”), emphasizing the striking aspects of the colorful setting. The result is an engaging and uplifting tale of family, identity, and place.
An enjoyable love story that explores family, self-discovery, and the ties between personal and professional success.