Going into this book I wasn't sure how I was going to like it. When I pick up fiction I'll admit that I'm a romance junkie so a book set in India focused on the struggles of an Untouchable family and their young son was definitely a change for me but I am very glad that I read it. Right from the first page I knew I was going to be hooked and I knew that it was going to be a thought-provoking read. I'm warning you now you will need tissues within the first few pages.
In a society like ours where everyone is treated equally (or at least supposed to be) it's hard to imagine a caste system where the wrong move by a lower class citizen, something as simple as breathing the same air as an upper caste, could result in death, and it was acceptable. Kay Marshall Strom has brought the pain and suffering of the poor of India in the early 1900s to life in The Faith of Ashish. Ashish is one little boy with a boatload of spirit. He is beaten to within an inch of his life, heals with the help of a kindly British nurse only to go on to serve an abusive young master. His story is also uplifting as he and his family learns that he is, after all a true blessing as his name indicates.
Judging by the title you might expect this book to be simply about Ashish and his journey to God but it's not. It's mostly about life, hardships and finding hope where there doesn't seem to be any. This is not an easy story to read but Ms. Strom definitely seems to know her stuff and I learned a lot that I didn't know about 20th century India. If you're interested in missions or other culture's religious views this is definitely a book to read.
*I received my copy from the publisher in exchange for posting my honest review.*
What does it take to break your heart? Would a brutal beating of a small Indian child, an untouchable boy, move you to discover more about a society that places such little value on life? Why would a lowly tanner, someone who handles dead animals for their skins, name his son "Blessing" in a world where nothing blesses and everything worthwhile is in the hands of the rich and powerful. What faith can possible overcome the heat and hopelessness of the poverty and filth in India?
Kay Marshall Strom's newest fiction release The Faith of Ashish is a tender, poignant story told with a heart of love for the least-loved people on our planet. The reader enters the lives of Virat, Latha, and their son, Ashish, as they struggle to survive the cruel realities of their outcaste existence. The presence of one true Christian believer, a young nurse in a medical mission compound, shines the light of Christ into their darkness, proving the naming of their boy was not a mistake. Not a foolish rebellion against their dharmaâ€”their personal moral law. Hope does exist.
The story unfolds on many levelsâ€”revealing not only the plight of the Untouchables in India, but also the inadequacy of Christian mission in the early twentieth-century, and the confusion of true "religion" with those who claim roots in the faith, but do not practice it. Readers also meet the wealthy landowner, Mammen Samuel, who pretends to help poor people, but then makes them his slaves for life. What kind of a world tolerates such deceit in the name of God?
Our world. The one we in the prosperous West ignore in deference to our soft beds, our electronic toys, our stocked-to-the-brim pantries. Kay Strom is on a mission of her own: to bring the suffering people of the world into our homes by any meansâ€”to rouse us to action to make a difference. Several of her non-fiction works have highlighted the lives of persecuted believers. Her previous fiction series, Grace in Africa, shines a beacon on the evils of slaveryâ€”past and present. Now, she shows us India. The real India.
My heart was broken. I took the risk to read, to feel, to care. How about you?
The Faith of Ashish releases in August 2011. I was provided an Advance Reader Copy by the author.