Monday, March 25, 2019

THE BRIDGE HOME by Padma Venkatraman



The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman (February 5, 2019, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 208 pages, for ages 10 and up)

This beautifully written novel, set in modern-day Chennai, India, follows two sisters, Viji and Rukku. After their father abuses their mother, who refuses to leave him, and then attacks both girls in a drunken rage, Viji convinces her special-needs sister Rukku to run away with her and live on the streets. Eleven-year-old Viji misses school, but realizes they can never go back.

Life on the streets is much harder than Viji anticipated, until they receive food from the kind wife of a cafe owner. Seeking a place to sleep, the girls discover a crumbling, abandoned bridge, where two homeless boys, Arul and Muthi, are already living. The boys welcome them and give them a tarp for a tent. They also teach the girls how to earn money by picking through stinking trash heaps for useful metals and other items they can sell to the junkman. Well, Viji works in the trash heaps, while Rukku plays with a puppy who followed them.

But it's Rukku who ends up earning the most money by making beautiful bead necklaces out of the beads the cafe owner's wife gave them. College girls buy the pretty necklaces and all four children get to feast that day. The children almost enjoy their homelessness, knowing they're in charge of their own lives. But when Rukku and Muthi both become sick, Viji and Arul realize they need to trust an adult.

There is both sadness and sweetness in this gorgeous novel, written as one long letter from Viji to Rukku. You know right from the start that there's a reason the girls are separated but you won't know what it is for most of the book. Viji is a wonderful character, full of resilience and love for her sister.

This timely, important, and life-affirming novel not only makes an inspiring read but would be an excellent addition to classrooms and libraries. See also Melissa Sarno's Just Under The Clouds (my review here), about homelessness and special-needs sisters.

Favorite lines (from p. 48): "Sleep well in your new home," Arul said.
     We crawled into our tent. I took out the book Parvathi Teacher had given me and strained my eyes, trying to read in the semi-darkness, but I could hardly make out the words. I put the book away and thought of how kind she had been to us.
    "When I grow up, I want to be a teacher," I told you.


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I'm honored to have met and learned from the brilliant Padma Venkatraman at two Highlights Foundation workshops! I've now read all four of her novels published in this country, and look forward to whatever she writes in the future. Please visit her website: Padma Venkatraman for more information.





19 comments:

  1. Your review has me wanting to read this one today. Such an important story told here. Thanks for giving this story recognition.

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  2. This sounds like an ultimately touching story. Thanks so much for recommending it!

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    1. You're welcome, Completely Full Bookshelf. (I still don't know your name!)

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  3. This sounds like a sweet story of friendship. Thanks for the review.

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    1. Friendship and sisterhood are equally important themes here, Janet.

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  4. Great review: I would have picked up this book for the gorgeous cover, but might have shied away thinking it would be too sad. You make it sound quite wonderful. Adding to my TBR!

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    1. Thanks, Kim. Though there is sadness, the sweetness balances it perfectly. It's unfortunate that sadness is part of this world.

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  5. I enjoyed your wonderful review and am thrilled that you loved The Bridge Home. It is both heartbreaking and beautiful. I am a fan of Padma's novels as she always delivers something more about her beloved Indian culture!

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    1. Glad to hear you loved it too, Patricia! Isn't she brilliant?

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  6. Wow! This one sounds fantastic. And I met my husband in India. I'll look for it.

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  7. This really is a special book. I loved it as well. Thanks for your thoughts and thanks for your generosity to my daughter!

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    1. You're quite welcome, Rosi. Glad to hear you loved this book too.

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  8. I haven't read this but I am adding to my oh so long list :)

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    1. Hi Marcy and thanks. I know you don't read much in the way of MG.

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  9. The cover is stunning- just so beautiful. I hadn't heard of this one before- but it sounds very interesting. I have added it to my list and look forward to getting to know the characters. Thanks for sharing. :)
    ~Jess

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  10. great book! loved it when we did a global read aloud!

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