A Walk Across the Sun – Corban Addison (Book Review)

First of all, I’d just like to say thank you to all of you who liked and commented on my efforts for last week’s writing challenge. It’s the first time that I’ve been freshly pressed, and it’s been just fantastic to get some feedback about my writing. On that note, I’d also like to greet all of the new followers who found me through Freshly Pressed; welcome aboard and thank you for your support! Please keep the comments coming, even if you have something to say that might seem negative. Feedback is how I get better at writing.

Today’s offering is a book review, as I’m completely crazy about reading and spend a sizeable portion of my time with my nose wedged in some lengthy tome or other. Working abroad, I had a very limited supply of reading material, and in the end would just read whatever I could get my hands on. This meant a lot of rubbish, dodgy science fiction, romance novels and really bad detective stories. Now that I’m back, I’m trying to be a little more discerning about what I put into my brain, and also to reflect a little more on what I read, hence the book reviews. I’m also hoping that I can get other people reading of course!

A Walk Across the Sun is the story of two young Indian girls who lose their family in a natural disaster and are subsequently sold into slavery. It chronicles their terrifying experiences as a part of the sex trade, alongside the efforts of American lawyer, Tom, to find and free them.

Human trafficking is not a subject to be taken lightly, however, this isn’t a heavy read. Whilst part of the purpose of this book is to inform, it is still a work of fiction and there is still a story to get lost in. Addison has created some real, believable characters, giving his lead roles flaws and imperfections that bring them to life as normal, everyday people. Our hero, Tom, for instance, is no squeaky clean knight in shining armour; he’s cheated on his wife and is trying to put his marriage back together. His flatmate, despite doing his utmost to assist Tom in his search for the girls, sees nothing wrong in hanging out at a strip club. This is an endearing cast with personality quirks and faults that we can all relate to. The only slight exceptions to this are the girls themselves, who are just a little bit too virtuous. It seems as though in relating the horrific events that the pair suffer, the author has ended up putting the girls themselves on a pedestal; any shortcomings or failings that they might have are ignored in light of their suffering. Bizarrely, this doesn’t make them seem any less real. It does however make them less likeable – they are irritatingly perfect.

The story itself spans continents, jumping from India to the USA and to Europe. Whilst Addison doesn’t bring the locations alive in the same way as say Khaled Hosseini or Carlos Ruiz Zafón do, the descriptions are detailed enough to allow the reader to visualise the landscapes. The descriptions are very…..masculine, though. I don’t mean this as a derogatory comment. What I mean is that if this were a travel guide, the hapless wanderer wouldn’t open these pages and feel the Indian sun beating down on their heads or smell the freshly baked bread scent of Paris at dawn. They would however be able to find their way from the station to the hotel, and know where to buy a decent cup of coffee or what the accepted dress code in the local night club was. It is a very practical style, which is actually extremely well suited to the stark environments that are being described. One does get the feeling though, that Addison is more comfortable depicting grotty basement hovels than evoking the gentle scents and sounds of a summer’s night on the coast of Goa.

In terms of plot, there are enough twists and turns to keep even the shortest attention span engaged. There is always something happening, and on more than one occasion, relief at it all being over is quickly converted into despair on the behalf of our heroes as they are plunged yet again into the thick of things. The pace is a little uneven, with a bit of that inevitable quickening towards the end that is so often found in lengthy stories, but the storyline is a perfect mix of the credible and the shocking.

To me, this is exactly as it should be. As mentioned earlier, one of the aims of this novel is to educate us readers about the sex trade. It is important, therefore, that we believe in the story, even though it is fiction. It is equally crucial that we feel shocked and disgusted. We are supposed to stand up and take notice.

In ‘A Walk Across the Sun’, Addison has taken on a daunting task. He aims to throw the human trafficking issue into the spotlight, not by preaching to us but by using fiction to paint a real-life ‘what if’ scenario. In order to achieve his goals, he has to be successful on two fronts. Firstly, he must tell a good story, with all of the accoutrements expected of one – plot, characterisation, narrative style etc. Secondly, he must relay the relevant information in a way that will get the reader thinking beyond the story. In my opinion, he has achieved both parts.

Now that Addison has opened the door on this topic, I’d really like other writers to follow in his footsteps. In particular, I’d like to see some female authors having a try. Addison did a superb job of putting himself in the shoes of his female protagonists. However, I think that only a female writer could really express the horror that these girls go through. A female perspective on this could be really enlightening. Of course, that’s not to say that I couldn’t be proved wrong on this one!

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