A Walk Across the Sun

A Walk Across the Sun

by Corban Addison


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Corban Addison's debut novel, A Walk Across the Sun, made waves when it was first published, called "pulse-revving with a serious message," by O, the Oprah magazine. John Grisham said, "Addison has written a novel that is beautiful in its story and also important in its message. A Walk Across The Sun deserves a wide audience." A trained lawyer committed to the cause of advancing international human rights and abolishing modern slavery, Addison has written a novel that enlightens while it entertains; A Walk Across the Sun brings together three of Addison's great passions—storytelling, human rights, and the world's many cultures.

Ahalya Ghai and her younger sister Sita are as close as sisters can be. But when a tsunami rips through their coastal village, their home is swept away, and the sisters are the sole survivors of their family. Destitute, their only hope is to find refuge at a convent many miles away. A driver agrees to take them. But the moment they get into that car their fate is sealed. The two sisters—confused, alone, totally reliant on each other—are sold.

On the other side of the world, Washington lawyer Thomas Clarke is struggling to cope after the death of his baby daughter and the collapse of his marriage. He takes a sabbatical from his high-pressure job and accepts a position with the Bombay branch of an international anti-trafficking group. Thomas is now on a desperate path to try and save not only himself and his marriage, but also the lives of the two sisters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623651510
Publisher: Quercus
Publication date: 04/01/2014
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 220,817
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Corban Addison is the author of the international bestselling novels, A Walk Across the Sun and The Garden of Burning Sand, which address international human rights issues within the framework of deeply researched and compelling human stories. An attorney, activist, and world traveler, he is a supporter of numerous humanitarian causes, including the abolition of modern slavery, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS. He lives with his wife and children in Virginia.

Read an Excerpt

Mumbai, India After a few days in Suchir’s brothel, Ahalya and Sita began to lose touch with time. Each day took on the rhythm of India’s year, its two seasons defined by the presence and absence of the sun. Day was benign and filled with all things domestic—the chatter of the girls occupying the floor below, the diverse sounds of commerce drifting up from the street. Night, by contrast, was malignant, a soundscape of pounding feet, drunken shouts, squeals of seduction and protestation, and incessant moaning.
The girls had few visitors during those first days. Sumeera came to check on them and brought their meals. Ahalya tried to hate her, but the animosity was difficult to sustain. Sumeera spoke softly, without any hint of command, and treated them like daughters.
One morning she brought a doctor along to examine them. At first Ahalya resisted the gynecologist’s probing, but Sumeera said the examination was routine. All young women in Bombay had it. Ahalya thought of Suchir and agreed so as not to invite his wrath. Sita, seeing her sister capitulate, was quick to follow, though the examination caused her obvious shame and pain.
After the girls had been poked and prodded, Sumeera spoke in low tones to the doctor.
“You are both healthy,” she said, clasping her hands together. “We want you to stay that way. You will see the doctor once a month. Treat him well.”
When Sumeera was not present, the sisters searched the attic room for a means of escape. The room was a rough square, fourteen feet by thirteen. It had no window, only two small exhaust vents. The only door locked from the outside. Beyond it lay a stairwell with no exit except through the concealed door behind the bookcase. Ahalya had no doubt that the secret door could only be activated from the other side.
After many fruitless attempts, she sat on the floor beside Sita and stroked her hair.
“There has to be a way out,” she said.
“But where would we go?” Sita whispered. “We are strangers in Bombay.”
Ahalya had no answer. Each night, she lay awake, listening to the sounds drifting up from below. Her imagination turned her into an insomniac. She thought of the girls and the men who visited them. She was a virgin, but she was not naive. She understood the mechanics of sex. She knew what women had that men wanted. What she couldn’t comprehend was why a man would pay a prostitute, or beshya, for sex.
As the days dragged by, Ahalya began to wonder if Suchir would ever come for them. It was Friday, three days after their arrival, and no man had been brought to their room. Ahalya’s only explanation was that the brothel owner was planning something for them. The thought of it terrified her. Sometimes when she heard Suchir’s voice through the floorboards, a wave of vertigo came upon her. Her only remedy was to lie flat on her back. Sita worried over her, but Ahalya blamed the heat. Inside, however, her heart was consumed with fear.
The hour came when Ahalya least expected it. It was in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve, and she had been drifting in and out of sleep. The sounds of festivity were everywhere on the street, and the moans coming from downstairs struggled to keep pace. The doorknob turned without a sound, but the hinges creaked and startled her awake. The light came on suddenly and Sumeera stood at the foot of the bed holding a burlap sack.
“Wake up, children,” she said nervously. “It’s time to dress.”
Ahalya’s heart began to pound, but she knew better than to ask questions. She could still feel the sting of the young man’s hand on her cheek the morning they arrived. Sumeera held out a beautiful crimson and gold churidaar and directed Ahalya to put it on. She gave Sita a sari the color of peacock feathers. Bangles came next and then anklets. Sumeera brushed the girls’ hair and adorned it with garlands. Then she applied a light coat of foundation and thin black eyeliner. Standing back, she appraised them. After a moment, Suchir appeared in the doorway and grunted his approval.
“Come,” he said. “Shankar is waiting.”
The sisters descended the steps behind Sumeera and Suchir and entered the hallway. There were perhaps twenty girls in the narrow space. Some were leaning against walls; others were sitting on the floor in open door frames. A few snickered when they appeared, but the rest were watchful. To Ahalya’s surprise, most of the beshyas were plain-looking. Only two or three could pass for pretty, and only one girl was truly beautiful.
Ahalya caught a few whispers as she walked past.
“Fifty thousand,” a tall girl guessed.
“More,” said her neighbor.
Suchir silenced them with a glare. He directed Sita to wait at the door and then ushered Sumeera and Ahalya into the brothel lobby. A man sat on one of the couches facing the mirror. He was forty-something, with a head of black curls and a gold watch on his wrist. He eyed Ahalya appraisingly while Suchir pulled the window shades. Sumeera, meanwhile, took her seat on the other couch and bowed her head.
Suchir flipped a switch, and a bank of recessed bulbs installed above the mirror flooded the room with light. In a gentle voice, he directed Ahalya to stand beneath the glare and to look at the man. Ahalya obeyed for a brief moment, and then her eyes fell to the floor.
“Shankar, my friend,” said the brothel owner, “I have something delectable for you tonight. Two girls—both sealed pack. This is the older one.”
Shankar murmured his delight. He stood up and walked toward Ahalya. He admired her skin, touched her hair, and grazed her left breast with the back of his hand.
“Ravas,” he said with a sigh. “Magnificent. I do not need to see more. Save the other girl for another day. How much for this one? With no condom.”
“Condoms are required,” Suchir replied. “You know the rule.”
Shankar shrugged. “Rules are worthless. How much do you want?”
Suchir seemed to hesitate, but then quickly conceded. “For a girl like this, sixty thousand, and only this time.”
“Suchir, you drive a hard bargain,” Shankar said. “I came only with fifty thousand in bills.”
“You can visit the ATM,” Suchir rejoined. “The girl is worth every rupee.”
Shankar stepped back. “Sixty thousand. I will pay you the rest afterward.” He handed a wad of thousand-rupee notes to Suchir.
Suchir looked at Sumeera. “Take them upstairs,” he said. “And keep the other girl in the stairwell. It will be a good lesson for her.”

While the men negotiated, Ahalya stood in a state of near paralysis. In the harsh embrace of the stage lights, she felt transported. Her heart hammered in her chest, and she felt a prickly sensation begin at the base of her neck and wind its way downward. She didn’t think of Shankar as a man. She imagined him as a ghost, a spirit from the underworld. A ghoul could not deflower her. Yet she knew the trick of her mind was foolish. He was a man like any other.
When she heard Suchir’s directive about Sita, she looked up, horrified but unable to speak. Fear had absconded with the remains of her defiance. She would allow Shankar to have her so that Sita would learn not to resist. For resistance, she now understood, meant pain, and pain accentuated the misery of this beggar’s existence. After tonight, she would be awara, a fallen one. The bridge into prostitution had only one direction.
“Bolo na, tum tayor ho?” Sumeera asked her. “Tell me now, are you ready?”
Ahalya nodded. She allowed Shankar to take her hand and lead her into the hallway. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Sita. As Shankar drew her up the stairs, she thought of her father. He had taught her that she was strong, that the sky was the limit of her talents, and that she could be anything she wanted to be. It was a beautiful idea, but ill-fated. She thought of her mother as Sumeera fluffed the pillows and lit a candle. Ambini had been gentle and dignified, a role model to emulate. They were dead now, both of them, their bodies strewn like driftwood upon the ruin of a beautiful beach. All that remained was jooth ki duniya, a world of lies.
Sumeera left her with Shankar and closed the door. Ahalya stared at a spot on the floor, trembling. She could not bring herself to look at the man who had bought her. He approached her and lifted her chin until she met his eyes. He smiled at her as he unbuttoned his pants.
“Tonight is your wedding night,” he said and pushed her back on the bed.

Reading Group Guide

1. The title of the novel comes from a poem that Thomas composes for Priya near the end of the story. What is Thomas attempting to express by writing the poem? What is the thematic significance of the title?
2. Sita and Ahalya are both named after characters in the Ramayana, the ancient Indian epic. How do the themes and characters of this classic tale and of the modern story told in the novel overlap? How do they differ?
3. In the early stages of the story, Thomas witnesses the kidnapping of Abby Davis. How does the kidnapping continue to shape his thoughts and actions throughout the book?
4. Sita begins the novel in the shadow of her older sister, envying many of Ahalya’s attributes and relying on her for guidance and protection. Discuss some of the obvious, and not so obvious, ways in which Sita matures as the story progresses.
5. What does Thomas’s troubled relationship with Tera Atwood tell the reader about him as a romantic partner? What does Thomas learn about himself from this relationship?
6. After Ahalya is rescued from Suchir’s brothel and brought to the ashram in Andheri, Sister Ruth allows her to plant a flower of her choice. Ahalya selects a blue lotus. What is the symbolic significance of the lotus?
7. Both Thomas and Priya have complicated relationships with their fathers. How do these relationships influence their individual identities, their marital troubles, and their ultimate reunion?
8. In what ways is the sisters’ middle-class upbringing a liability following the tsunami? In what ways is it a resource?
9. The role of gifts is significant in the novel. Ahalya gives Thomas a rakhi bracelet. Shyam gives Sita the Hanuman figurine. What do these gifts reveal about Ahalya and Sita? How do they shape their story?
10. Though influenced by many factors, the dissolution of Thomas and Priya’s marriage is triggered by the death of their daughter, Mohini. How do Thomas’s experiences in the story help him cope with that loss?
11. In the back of the van driving to Atlanta, Sita learns the story of Elsie, the runaway from Pittsburgh. After concluding her account of abuse, Elsie inquires about Sita’s excellent command of English. Sita explains that the whole world speaks English, and Elsie replies with the exclamation: “That’s because America is the best country on earth.” Discuss the tensions implicit in this statement, especially given the circumstances under which it is made.
12. In what ways does Thomas’s friendship with Dinesh shape Thomas’s views on women and their treatment in India?
13. The cast of criminals in the novel is diverse—ethnically, socio-economically, and personally. What does this diversity reveal about the causes and complexities of the modern slave trade?
14. After taking Sita hostage and making demands of the FBI, Dietrich Klein asks Sita: “Do you know why you are here?” Answering his own question, he explains: “You are not here because I enjoy the sale of sex. You are here because men enjoy the purchase of it.” Discuss the social and economic significance of this statement.
15. For much of the novel, the journeys of Sita and Ahalya are defined by tragedy and exploitation, yet the story concludes with a note of hope. What will the process of healing look like for them? As Thomas asks, will Sita ever want to marry a man after all that she has seen? Will Ahalya?

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A Walk Across the Sun 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 263 reviews.
skstiles612 More than 1 year ago
Those of us not familiar with the sex trade, me being one of those, usually think of it as happening “someplace else”. The reality is that it happens all over the world, including right here in the United States. Children are sold for drugs, prostitution, kidnapped right off of the street. Before you go any further in this review you need to know that this is not a feel good topic. It is repulsive and hard to read. We start off the story with two innocent girls whose life is decimated due to a tsunami. They try to get to their school where the sisters will take care of them. Things go wrong and they find themselves where no young person should ever be, in the sex trade. Thomas Clarke is a lawyer who has lost so much already. He witnesses a kidnapping of a young girl in a park and this sets him on his mission to work against these traffickers. This story moves along smoothly carrying the reader from one heartbreak to another. It is a very emotional book to read. It lets you see inside the head and heart of these people who sell children for sex. I think it was best said when one of the characters said to the young girl he had with him, “You are not here because I enjoy the sale of sex. You are here because men enjoy the purchase of it.” (page 329) I thought about that remark. If we could get rid of all of the people who were willing to pay for this service then we would not have the sex trade. As the author took us across India we get a look at the different caste systems and the way they treat people. Both of these girls were middle class students who knew English. This made them more valuable than many others. The author doesn’t leave the reader in a depressive state. He definitely wanted to give the reader hope that this situation can change in the future. This is a must read book. If nothing else you as a parent should read it to see what you need to protect your children from. Corban Addison is able to give a voice to the victims of human trafficking. Without that voice people like me know nothing of it. We live in our safe little world. After reading this book my world doesn’t feel so safe anymore and it isn’t as small as it once was.
mlkinsley More than 1 year ago
This is a very timely story, as human trafficking is getting more and more attention in the media. It is also becoming more and more prevalent around the world. Addison did a stellar job of telling a difficult story. He handled a challenging topic with sensitivity and with taste. This story moves quickly and is a beautiful read - without being bogged down with excessive description. I would not call this book literary, but I also would not call it commercial fiction. It is unique and Addison has a strong voice as a writer. If you like to read stories that makes a difference, that teach you something about the world, that move the heart in profound ways, then do read A Walk Across the Sun. I recommend it for those who enjoyed and/or appreciated 'Little Bee' and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns'. Also for readers who like page turners, but page turners with more depth and humanity. A great debut!
JadeWant More than 1 year ago
I was riveted by this suspenseful story line and transported to the most vile yet hopeful of conditions. The narrator of "A Walk Across the Sun" is a lawyer/poet who finds himself at a crossroads as he contemplates which way to go in his career and life. His choice probably wouldn’t be one you or I would make. His interest in human rights drove him into a world of human trafficking where he tells of the plight of two sisters. This story opens our eyes to how prevalent the international sex trade is that is going on right under our noses. What an amazing story! It is filled with intrigue, tragedy, action and joy. You'll be thinking about it long after the last page is turned.
Pat135 More than 1 year ago
I was lucky to get an early copy and I highly recommend this to men and women everywhere. The author aptly brings a major modern issue to light under the guise of a beautiful story of two sisters. This book will open your eyes to real problems in today's world--stuff that could be happening in your own town. Definitely a must-read.
Frances0607 More than 1 year ago
I don't usually like to take the time to log in, in order to post many reviews. However, this book was written so well and so action-packed that I had to give Mr. Addison his "kudos"; especially as this is his first novel. I loved the bond between the sisters Sita and Ahalya; you could feel their deep connection which I found heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, because of all that the sisters had to go through. I found this book to be very descriptive and detail-oriented; I could actually imagine Thomas as he searched for Sita through the streets of Bombay, Paris, and through Sita's travels in the States. I was almost disappointed when I finished the book because now I need to find another good read.
laura24 More than 1 year ago
I was instantly immersed into this fantastic, believably written story.
Jamie35 More than 1 year ago
Page turner. Engages mind and heart. Excellently written. I read an advanced release copy and cannot get the story out of my mind. Excellent offering by debut author.
RichardKK More than 1 year ago
This is a must read book. A story that needs to be heard. A difficult story handled exquisitly. The world has been hiding from the realities of human trafficking. This book reveals that in a story that not only addresses the dark side of this problem but also gives us a hope that there are solutions. Intertwined within the major theme is a love story that makes the outcome even more uncertain. There is everyday life being confronted head on. There is darkness, uncertainty, sacrifice, commitment, failure, redemption, honesty, resolve, hope, love. This book will tug at your heart and force you to engage your thinking about your place in life and about making a difference in some way. The ending is heart rendering as it brings to closure what began as an impossible task but somehow became the possible. There are ways even when there seem to be none. Every page is filled with intrigue. Don't miss this one. A truly unique read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was a great read. It brings awareness to the ways of the world. It does provide hope in the dark world of human trafficking. I did not want to put the book down once I started it. It truly brings light to a problem in the world that many do not know of. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in justice for the many, many hostages of this horrible injustice. I was not sure I could read about the subject of human trafficking, but it is written in a way that allows for some imagination, but fully portrays the desperation of these poor hostages. It will lead many to know more about the foundations and organizations that help these people out of the dark and tortuous world. I am grateful to Corban Addison for the bravery in the investigations and for shedding light on the darkness. Lola
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Without a doubt one of the best books I've read in a very long time. This is one you don't want to miss. EXCELLENT BOOK!!
neatsie More than 1 year ago
The cover of this book caught my attention on line and when I read what the story was about I was very intrigued.....then I noticed that it was endorsed by John Grisham and all the reviews I read were raving about it. I decided to take a chance and choose this book for my book club.....I ABSOLUTELY LOVED it!!! It is now ranked in my top 3 all-time favorite books (along with The Kite Runner). Haven't had our book club meeting yet but so far the reviews are amazing. I was a little concerned because the of the sex trafficking topic and was worried that those scenes would be too graphic. They were not. What an amazing story! This one will never leave your mind. You will laugh, you will cry. Praise for Corban Addison for bringing a horrific epidemic to our attention. We all think that things like this are not happening in our backyard. Wake up America....they are. You will want to run out and help save all these children....I know I do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I compleatly loved this book!! It was so sad because i does really happen all over the world. It is also a thing that happens here because people are willing to pay for it. This book puts into perspective of what women in the sex trade have to do to just stay alive on a normal day bases. The idea of have to do that is sad, i have always liked books like this becaese it gives you a needed dose of reality, which is needed I think to keep you grounded. All this is so sad, but the endding is happy and that doesnt always happen as it should. In an ideal world this would not happen, but that isnt the caes. When i read books like i need to do something about this, help out even if it is only a little. I dont know what to do with my life but helping people is something i want to do. If an opperitunate comes around like it dod with Thomas i will take it and do that because life so sometimes hard, but for people in that situation it is esspecialy hard. I would want to help them get out
thewanderingjew More than 1 year ago
The book is mainly about two main characters, sisters, aged 17 and 15, Ahalya and Sita. Before literally being cast adrift by a tsunami, in their home town in India, they led charmed lives in a lovely house with loving, educated and successful parents. Afterwards, all of their family, all of their servants and friends are suddenly wiped out; they are completely alone. While trying to get to their convent school and safety, they are kidnapped and sold into human bondage, disappearing; one young woman’s life soon begins as a sex slave and the other as a servant. Many of the girls that are sold have been captured because of their naivete. They answer questionable ads, run away from home in search of a better life, escape to raise money for poverty stricken or ill relatives. Regardless of their motives, they are all abused and terrified of their captors who show them no mercy and treat them without any consideration for human needs. Reading this, I could feel my blood pressure rise because of the horror the young women were exposed to and because of the despicable nature of the men who abused them. These young, inexperienced girls were in no condition to fight their captors. In order to stop this trafficking, the users of these services should be punished, along with the pimps and the kidnappers and the brothel owners; anyone involved in aiding or abetting this practice should be put away forever. How they turn a blind eye to their complicity in this crime is incomprehensible. Although the book could have degenerated into a sex crazed story, with elaborate descriptions of rape and physical violence, the author let the story move the plot along rather than the titillating descriptions, which are the meat and potatoes of many novels today. The more explicit scenes are left to the reader’s imagination. The narrative is suspenseful and very exciting. The story is filled with twists and turns which will hold the reader's interest while at the same time educate the reader about this abominable trade that can only exist because there are so many depraved men supporting it. The main problem with the book is the number of failed rescues; there were just too many near misses. They tried to include every different kind of human trafficking possible while at the same time, the author seemed intent on protecting and keeping the teenager, Sita, safe from the actual consequences of her captivity, the actual moment of the rape which would make her a courtesan or worse. Either all law enforcement is corrupt and inept or the author wanted to portray them that way to keep the story going on. One thing is for sure, there are corrupt politicians and law enforcement officers who allow this to continue. There is an underlying love story, complete with betrayal, which moved the plot along and moved the characters to the countries they needed to be in order for the tale to play out. The confluence of many events occurring at just the right time, and for just the right reason, appeared a bit too serendipitous, at times, but it held my interest completely; its human interest tugged my heartstrings. It is at once sad and painful, as it is also hopeful and joyful. It is obvious that the author knows this subject well and while the story may go off on one too many tangents, on occasion, the book deserves to be read. the book deserves to be read. The crime and shame of human trafficking always remains the main theme that the author wished to expose and expunge.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put this book down. Be prepared to visit a truly ugly side of humanity. This should be required reading.
Eclectic-reader70 More than 1 year ago
This is a must read that will compel you to complete - quickly. The story will open your eyes and heart to the pain that young girls who are in these situations must sometimes endure. The story is a well written book that elicites compassion for the young girls and those who strive to free them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A Walk Across The Sun is an important story of 2 sisters which will not leave your head. The author takes you on a beautifully written journey into the ugliness of modern day international human sex slavery. This story will open your eyes, take your breath, break your heart, and lift you up. I found that I wanted this book to end so badly because of the pain the young girls went thru but I found I also was very sad that there was not more to read! I wanted more!! I look forward to reading more from Corban Addision.
SouthernBornGal More than 1 year ago
A powerful page turning story! I could not put the book down!! It is beautifully written and the topic is one of a parent's worst nightmares. WELL DONE!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm only to Chapter 5 but can't put it down! I know I will fall asleep thinking about these characters and will wake up with them on my mind. I won't be able to think of much else until I finish this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book to read at a future date, I wish now after having read it that I would have put my other distractions aside and started reading. This is a book that held me from the first page to the last. I must say this book was well written and I simply couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it!!!
barbarino More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent story of a loving and caring family wiped out by a natural disaster and the struggle and resilience of two young girls following the death of their entire family. Once I started reading the story, it was so timely and interesting, I couldn't put it down. It tugged at every emotion and heightened my awareness of human slavery and how it can affect every socioeconomic group. The saddest part is that this problem wouldn't exist were it not for the perverts who use and abuse these young girls and have no respect for humanity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A well written story that brings to light how young girls are treated as posessions in many cultures including ours.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
did not want to put down. felt i knew the people in the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved every page. Beautifully written. Heartwarming. Made me laugh and cry. I highly recommend reading this book. Worth the money. Looking forward to his next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written and interesting this story kept me up reading past 2am and I still had trouble putting it down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutly loved this book. A real eye opener regarding the world of human trafficing.