The Faith of Ashish by Kay Marshall Strom
The time is 1905 and the setting is southern India. Five-year old Ashish has had the bad fortune of being born an untouchable, an outcast. When he is beaten severely for drinking from the wrong cup, his parents will do anything to help him live, even trade their freedom.
They willingly become slaves to the wealthy "Christian" landowner. In exchange, the landowner agrees to take Ashish to the English Mission Clinic to save his life. Ashish's and his parents must now live their lives in slavery.
This book left me feeling very unsatisfied. (*spoiler alert*) With a title like "The Faith of Ashish," one would think the book would be about Ashish coming to faith in Jesus Christ. However, the book ends and he still hasn't become a Christian. He has spent some time with the English missionaries but he still thinks Jesus is just another one of the Hindu gods. I kept feeling like I was still reading the intro to a story instead of reading the story.
On the positive side, the novel did a great job of explaining the caste system in India and giving somewhat of a social commentary on Hinduism as it relates to Indian society. Basically you have the haves and have nots. The members of the caste are the haves. According to Hinduism, these people have been given a better place in society because of their good karma - good things they have done in past lives. They are priests, land owners, warriors and kings. The untouchables, or the have nots, are lower than animals. They are treated as less than human and have no hope for improving their situation. They are taught to stay in their place in society because it is their punishment for sin in a past life.
If the book's goal was to simply teach me about life in India at the turn of the century, I may have enjoyed it more. If the title of the book were A Year in the Life of Ashish, I might have enjoyed it more. But I spent the whole book waiting for the promise in the title and it never delivered.
I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.
The Kindle version of this book was provided for review by Net Galley.