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Thriller traces repellant human sex-slave trade

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/1/2012 (3111 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

HOLLYWOOD'S penchant for grisly violence may be jading much of the population to real horrors that affect real people, not the haplessly manipulated protagonists of the Saw franchise and its ilk.

Movies provide such content because there is an audience for it. There is also a market for human trafficking in the international sex and pornography trade. That market is ultimately responsible for the multibillion-dollar industry that abducts and enslaves young people around the world.

That repellant industry is the setting for American human-rights attorney Corban Addison's first novel, a thriller that traces those involved in the sex trade, both victims and perpetrators.

A Walk Across the Sun is an effective and readable book, perhaps because it cannot present an adequately repulsive picture of the degradation inflicted on its victims. Cultures, including North America's, also suffer when the money involved distorts justice and human decency.

Ahalyah and Sita are happy teenagers, until their parents are killed in a tsunami on the east coast of India. Seeking to find help in the aftermath, they end up sold to a whorehouse in Mumbai. Their experiences form the core of the novel.

They are victimized and resold by traffickers just ahead of aid agencies and law enforcement, not all of which is corrupt.

If their descent into this hellish existence is not shown graphically, it is nonetheless pitiable because it happens to innocent children who seemed to have such bright futures.

Washington corporate attorney Thomas Clarke has separated from his Indian wife, Priya, after the death of their infant daughter. As he questions how he has lived his life, and deals with the emotional effects of his relationships, he becomes involved in the pursuit of sex traffickers, and the hunt for Ahalyah and Sita.

His frustration at corruption in Indian law enforcement and legal systems reflects that of readers, who desire justice and safety for the two girls.

Addison balances these two stories, and intersects them across three continents. While some of the coincidences may be a bit too pat, the underlying danger for the girls, representing uncountable thousands of victims of the sex trade, provides an emotional connection for the reader.

Characters involved in both victimizing and trying to save young people from the sex trade comment on the vast market for underage prostitution and exhibition that drives the industry. However, the contemptible customers and their loathsome appetites are portrayed with little depth.

Captors, messengers, and henchmen for the kingpins of the trade tend toward "gaunt cheeks, cold eyes," and scars. Those who help Clarke as he tries to help the girls are attractive, dedicated and thoughtful.

Readers will likely be adequately disgusted by the facts of the trade without being shown in more harrowing detail how it affects its victims, direct and collateral. Addison might have provided some more satisfying detail about the consequences for the few who are caught violating innocence.

Other unexplored loose ends include those who patronize more upscale, socially acceptable forms of sexual exploitation, including hereditary, caste-based prostitution in India. These situations are mentioned briefly, but not examined in detail.

Perhaps a grittier and more realistic picture of the fear, alienation and resignation experienced by abducted children would be too likely to pander to the target audience for the victimization and degradation purveyed by these technologically savvy slavers and pimps.

If Addison's novel occasionally drifts into melodrama and sentimentality, it still presents a horrifying story of a real problem, a scourge for which words may be inadequate.


Bill Rambo teaches at the Laureate Academy in Winnipeg.


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