THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES
Harper's Bazaar India|June - July 2020
Author Alka Joshi creates an alternate reality for her mother in The Henna Artist. In doing so, she also reinvents herself as a debut author, at 62.
Esha Mahajan

ALKA JOSHI REWRITES HER MOTHER’S HISTORY. What if she weren’t married at 18, but instead, had studied and launched a business? Where would her agency and ambition have taken her, in 1950s India? And how would she have reacted to a life of freedom, even if only in fiction? Joshi’s lush, eloquent debut, The Henna Artist, then, is a gift of liberation.

The novel follows 17-year-old Lakshmi, who escapes an abusive marriage and makes her way to Jaipur; there, she establishes herself as the most in-demand henna artist for the city’s wealthy women. For Joshi, it was a deliberate choice of profession: It maintains a class distance, but allows enough access for her to become their confidant. An accomplished debut, it is an international bestseller, and a Reese Witherspoon X Hello Sunshine book club selection. But Joshi’s biggest accomplishment, perhaps, is living a life that requires no revision.

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