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A Disobedient Girl: A Novel Hardcover – July 21, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (July 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439101957
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439101957
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,827,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ru Freeman's debut novel chronicles the trials and travails of two Sri Lankan women and their pursuit of freedom. Orphaned then absorbed as a servant into a well-to-do Sri Lankan family at the age of five, Latha Kumari grows up in tandem with the family's spoiled young daughter, Thara. However, Latha's mysterious origins and ambiguous caste ensure her a future of unpaid servitude in the Vithanages's household. Resentful, she involves herself with the man meant for Thara. This choice ultimately causes her loss and suffering. Alongside Latha's story is that of Biso's, who is fleeing a drunken abusive husband, a murdered lover and townspeople who whisper whore as she walks past. Biso escapes blindly to the salvation and promise of distant relatives in the north, but her journey with her three children across the country is tainted by murder and terrorism. The kindness of strangers runs out, but the end of Biso's tragic journey will end up being the promise of Latha's future. Freeman illustrates contemporary Sri Lankan life through the battles waged between lovers, friends and strangers alike in this study in dignity, strength of character, tolerance and perseverance. (July)
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"Evocative and moving. Ru Freeman is a marvelous storyteller who sees deeply into the complex layers of compassion and love, of sorrow and betrayal. An amazing first novel." -- Ursula Hegi, New York Times bestselling author of The Worst Thing I've Done and Stones from the River

"A thrilling debut: Ru Freeman has given us a wonderfully bold and determined protagonist in a richly drawn, complex, fascinating story. I loved it." -- Lynn Freed, author of The Servant's Quarters

"A heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting novel that celebrates our ability to transcend tragedy." -- Rishi Reddi, author of Karma and Other Stories and winner of the L. L. Winship/PEN Awar

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 58 customer reviews
As she grows from child to teenager to adult, she learns many bitter truths about class, love, and destiny.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann
I enjoyed the story and found the ending to be very satisfying, especially for a book where almost all the characters are somewhat despicable.
Mary Lins
A Disobedient Girl is beautifully written novel with vibrant characters, exotic landscapes, and melodic prose.
Deee Lovely

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ru Freeman's remarkable debut novel takes place in Sri Lanka, in the context of civil unrest and personal rebellion in the form of its two main characters, Latha and Biso. Both women are products of a culture that gives both class and men the power to decide their destinies, and yet they rebel against it, often under the cover of deceit, with the hope that their secret choices will finally make them happy.

The alternating plots, one told in the point-of-view of Latha and the other in the first-person narration of Biso, are powerful individually, with underlying significance revealed only at the end. Latha, an orphan, is raised in the privileged household of the Vithanages, as the "sister" of only child Thara. Although, as a young child, she believes herself the equal of Thara, she realizes as they approach adolescence that she is destined for inequity, the life of a servant girl. As she grows from child to teenager to adult, she learns many bitter truths about class, love, and destiny.

Biso's story is much briefer in terms of time, a few days of her journey from city to the country of tea plantations rather than the decades of Latha's. However, the time frame does not diminish the power of Biso's drama; instead, it compresses both her misery and her hope into a poignant story of a mother fighting for the future of her children. She and her three children are running from her alcoholic, unloving husband and from her personal, hidden grief for her dead insurgent lover. What happens to them during these few days has a huge impact on the outcome of the novel.

Freeman writes well and beautifully, with imagery that lingers both emotionally and visually.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Agusto-Cox on September 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ru Freeman's A Disobedient Girl: A Novel is set in Sri Lanka and is narrated by two women, Latha and Biso, in alternating chapters. Each of these women struggles with their station in society, the desires they have to improve their lot in life, and the journey they find themselves on after making pivotal decisions. Readers also catch a glimpse of Thara and Leela's lives and struggles.

Sri Lanka is in the midst of civil unrest when we meet Biso for the first time, but when we meet Latha, she is in the prime of innocence. Biso has lived a hard life, though she is not jaded by the loss of her greatest love or the abuse of her husband. Latha, on the other hand, is resentful of her station as a servant girl in a high-class home and straddles precariously between the world of a upper class girl, like her mistress' daughter Thara, and that of a servant. Class struggles, political unrest, and danger permeate the pages of A Disobedient Girl.

The narration begins slowly and builds to a crescendo, though readers may have a tough time with the broken and interrupted thoughts because it can detract from the atmosphere that Freeman attempts to create. Latha's chapters reflect her naivete and her impulsive nature, while Biso's chapters reflect a mature woman who is methodical in her actions and chastises herself for self-indulgence when she must care for three children.

However, Freeman has a gift for dramatic language and situations, illustrating how each woman faces tragedy and overcomes the suppression they feel because of their caste and decisions. A Disobedient Girl: A Novel is not about a specific girl or woman, but about the rebellious part of human nature that desires to be free and in control of its own destiny.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Dias on October 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I could not sleep last night till I finished the book! I am Sri Lankan and coming from a background much like Thara's, I can tell you that Ru's portrayal of all her characters are absolutely real. Her story highlights an accepted inequality that continues to exist not only in Sri Lanka but in most parts of southeast asia. To all non Sri Lankans, you need to understand this story within the context of a culture and to all Sri Lanka's I think we need to "get" the story's message and as impossible as it may seem, some things within our culture need to change!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lauren A. VINE VOICE on May 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel tells the story of Latha and Biso in alternating chapters. It begins with Latha as an unloved little girl, rationalizing her stealing of soap from her employers in order to maintain the hygeine habits of the rich. Latha works as a servant and desires the luxuries that her employers, the Vithanages, are accustomed to but deny the servants. Biso is a young mother in Matara, a fishing village in southern Sri Lanka, who has decided to leave her alcoholic, abusive husband and flee to her family in the hills. The Biso chapters catalog her reasons for leaving her husband, her long train journey, and the people she meets along the way. Latha and Biso are not obviously connected for most of the novel (except for some characters that Latha knew and who met Biso while on the train), but each desire independence and self-determination. Latha, seeks to be independent from the dictates of class - particularly her role as a servant and the biases that come along with that status. Biso wants to be free from the husband she did not choose and live her life free from his abuse and lack of love. Latha and Biso are both impulsive and encounter significant mishaps along the way.

Latha's story takes place from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, moving at a fast pass, with years passing between chapters. Biso's story takes place over a four day period in the early 1980s during her trip from coastal Matara to the hills. The author does not disclose dates, but historical events serve as guides. My familiarity with Sri Lankan politics and history helped me settle some dates, but readers without that familiarity should be able to use mentions of Princess Diana as a rough guide of dates.

I found the shifts from Biso to Latha to be jarring.
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