Burma, now Myanmar, has been a difficult country for minorities, including the Karen people, who are Christians. The Burmese have persecuted them and other ethnic minorities ever since gaining independence from Britain.
Author Charmaine Craig’s mother and grandparents told her many stories about Burma during and after the Japanese occupation during World War ll. Those stories inform her haunting tale of one family, a British man named Benny, his Karen wife, Khin, and the children she nurtured.
One of them, Louisa, becomes Miss Burma, but it’s a difficult honor in a troubled society.
Louisa grows up lacking confidence. Her mother pushes her to enter a beauty contest, which she wins, and then pushes her further and further until she becomes Miss Burma.
But Louisa still lacks confidence. Was she chosen as a political sop to show the world the Burmese government does not discriminate against the Karen people?
When she becomes the center of vicious, false rumors that she is having an affair with the prime minister, she has no avenues to clear her name in a nation where the press is controlled by the government. Meanwhile, her businessman-husband is caught in a web of political intrigue because he supports one of the opposition groups.
This fascinating novel is entirely plausible in this highly secretive country. (Grove Press)