The epic revolves around Nid and her daughter Lek. Nid loses her daughter while still an infant and spends the next 20 years looking for her.
Nid is sold into indentured prostitution as a very young teenager, and being a bar girl would seem to be her future. She knows of nothing else, nor has the education to allow her to improve on her prospects. The shallowness of the life as a bar girl is brought out very clearly, with Nid saying, “It was such a stagnant lifestyle, the quick and easy money had a way of destroying a person’s ability to dream for a better life.”
The supporting cast is brought into the narrative and given enough characterization to be credible, such as the Akha woman Malee, who at one time has possession of the child and Chatchai the teenager who is attracted to Lek, by then herself also a teenager. Incidentally, that childhood love is soon destroyed under most horrific circumstances. This is one of the many times that this book will move you to tears.
The book covers Bangkok, Central Thailand, the South-eastern region and Issan and shows the wracking poverty of the farmers and the way advantage is taken of them.
Author Dan Dorothy has lived for many years in Thailand and his observations of Thai behavior are spot on. While Lek and a friend were attempting to find the bus station in Korat, but after arriving by train and asking directions, “It took a couple of hours before they were finally able to locate the bus station, which, by the way, turned out to be only about one kilometer from the train station.” Anyone looking for clear directions in Thailand will always be disappointed.
The pace is kept up all the way through, but even the ending is not what you, as the reader, hope will happen. This is a most moving book, showing just how difficult life can be for Thai women from the poor and underprivileged portion of the community. As quoted on the back cover, “That two women can have lives so devastating will come as a shock to those who imagine that Thai community life revolves around the common good. This is not a tale of foreigners and Thais trying to outwit each other, but one of Thais taking advantage of other Thais. It will put a new slant on life in the Land of Smiles.”
At B. 560 this is a book you will never regret reading, and one you will read more than once. It deserves to be adapted for cinema. A “must read” publication.
Footnote: Author Dan Dorothy is one who many may come across locally, as he is the Executive Editor of Pattaya Mail Publishing and a director of Chiang Mai Mail.