A Disobedient Girl
Atria, Jul 21 2009, $25.00
In Colombo, Sri Lanka, recently orphaned five year old Latha Kumari is taken in by the wealthy Vithanages family as an unpaid except for room and board companion and servant of their same age daughter Thara. Over the next few years, spoiled Thara treats Latha as less than nothing. As the servant’s resentment grows, a communist tutor encourages her to never accept caste servitude. She also finds solace in Princess Diana’s rise from nanny to popular royal. Latha is outraged when her employers refuse to give her money to buy shoes she badly needs; her revenge is to seduce Thara’s intended, but unlike the soap operas that guide her, she finds her plan backfires.
Biso flees from her drunken abusive spouse, her dead lover and a town of uncaring people who call her "whore" loud enough for her to hear. She races to family in the north of the country expecting haven for her and her three accompanying children across a dangerous and deadly landscape. With terrorists everywhere threatening everyone, Biso and Latha meet with one’s tragedy becoming the other’s salvation.
Extremely timely, Ru Freeman focuses on the plight of women trying to survive in Sri Lanka where until recently the almost two decade civil war between the central government and Tiger Tamil was brutally fought with no thought for collateral damage. Relationships are keys to this super portrayal as the “owners” blithely ignore the needs of their “slave” while the teen servant is outraged by her mistreatment and lowly status. Biso in many ways is similar to Latha, but with maturity understands the plight for her and her offspring. Ms. Freeman without preaching makes a strong case that in society women tend to be the lowest while war places additional hardship on females who often end up in the excretion (from above) ooze below the food chain.