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In Chennai, India, 11-year-old Viji and her sister Rukku flee their home when their abusive father attacks them. Terrified of what lies ahead, they nevertheless embark on a journey of survival because home holds hope-squelching horrors of its own.

Though Viji is one year younger than Rukku, she takes the lead because Rukku is incapable of doing so. Viji knows that for Rukku “things were real that we couldn’t see or hear.” For years, Rukku’s mother had been afraid to get medical help for her daughter because she feared that the girl would be locked away in a mental institution.

The sisters encounter threats and kindness from people. Most importantly, they meet two homeless boys, Arul and Muthi, who made their home of tarps on an abandoned bridge. The boys allow the girls to join them as they find solidarity in their mutual plight. Arul and Muthi also encourage the girls to get work with them as scavengers at one of the city’s mountains of garbage where recyclables can be reclaimed for cash.

Raised in a Hindu family, Viji is surprised to learn that Arul is a Christian. So begins Viji and Rukku’s introduction to a faith far different than their own. When tragedy strikes, Viji experiences the love of Christ through the actions of a stranger whom the children met in a church.

Inspired by true stories of homeless children author Padma Venkatraman met in India, this novel for juvenile readers subtly shares the power of Christ to transform society and bring hope to despair. It also poignantly reveals the truth that family can be created in surprising ways and with unexpected people. Christian parents and their children could benefit from reading this book together and talking about Viji’s spiritual questions and discoveries, as well as ways in which they themselves can take action to help others. (Nancy Paulson Books)

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