A Disobedient Girl

A Disobedient Girl by Ru Freeman is a standout first novel. It is the parallel story of two women, Latha and Biso. Set in turbulent Sri Lanka, the story is so deftly constructed that the reader doesn’t fully realize the connections or recognize the friends or foes until the last pages.

Latha is a foundling raised in rich man’s home. As a child she is the companion, friend and schoolmate of Thara, the rich spoiled daughter of the house. As a young woman forced into the role of a servant, she yearns for more and rails against her position. She embarks on an act of rebellion that changes the course of her life – and Thara’s too.
Biso is a young woman who is forced to flee an abusive drunken husband with her three small children. One hopes that her innate dignity and grace will protect her on her journey to find a haven.
The author suggests Sri Lanka’s harsh climate of poverty and upheaval. She calmly sets her very human drama in a country where the rich buy, sell, beat, and trade the poor, in spite of a façade of human rights.
Though very different and much more hopeful in tone, this book resonated with me, as did Rohinton Mistry’s, A Fine Balance. The characters in both books fight oppression and hardship, in the search for lives of freedom and dignity. This well-told tale of the longing and pursuit for simple human freedoms is eloquent and haunting.