Penny Jaye, Out of the Cages, Rhiza Press, 1 July 2018, 272pp., $19.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781925563412
Out of the Cages is set in Mumbai, where 15-year-old Meena has been working in a brothel for three years. When the book opens, she is terribly ill. But her Madam does not care, even as her roommate is trying her best to take care of her. When a raid occurs, she is given up as something for corrupt police to show their superiors and ends up at Little Sister Rescue Foundation.
The book is a heartbreaking and stark exploration of what young girls endure in India, and in Meena’s case, Nepal. They are sold to brothels by their family members sometimes, or people they trust – which is what happens to Meena and her young friend Putali.
The book explores the difficulties Meena experiences once she enters the Little Sister Foundation and her struggle to come to terms with what happened as well as her issues around trusting her rescuers – people she should trust but cannot bring herself to.
The book delves into the experiences of the different girls rescued – some who still want to grab onto happiness where they can, and others who are too terrified to contemplate moving forward with their lives. There are others who wrap themselves in a cloak of cutting remarks, keeping others at bay, and yet others who do their best to help newcomers.
Jaye intersperses the truth of what happened to Meena and Putali with Meena’s struggle to deal with her present. The author pulls no punches when it comes to the brutal reality of what girls endure, and it will horrify young readers, but also spark much needed conversations.
Reviewed by Verushka Byrow