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The Parcel by Anosh Irani

I came to read this book through an unlikely coincidence. I was walking to a restaurant to meet up with some folks I worked with before my retirement from the workaday world. I was a little early, and along my walk came across a “fiercely independent bookstore”. How could I not stop in? I walked into the store and my eyes immediately fell upon a book called The Parcel. I was on my way to meet up with one current and two former Canada Post employees. It seemed to me that reading a book called The Parcel was just right.

I bought the book without knowing a thing about it, and continued on my way to see my friends. I didn’t know what to expect from the book but I never could have expected the book I came to read. The term “parcel” was used to describe a young girl sold into sex slavery. The book told the story of Madhu, who was a “hijra” – a eunuch in Mumbai’s Kamathipura red light district. Madhu was as beggar and a former prostitute. She also had a role in preparing children for sex slavery.

This book is very difficult to read. Irani takes us into the mind of Madhu, and ventures into her past (we learn that as a hijra, the “third sex”, Madhu was “he” prior to castration and “she” after), and as ugly and sad as her world is, she and her life are presented with great compassion.

This is a book I likely would not have chosen to read, had I paid any attention to what it was about, instead of buying it on impulse based on happenstance. I’m glad I read it though. It is a very unusual novel, a compelling, fascinating and horrifying read all at once.

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