Ru Freeman is a writer I was introduced to last year through a book club and her terrific novel, On Sal Mal Lane. I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Freeman and hear her speak about her novel and her life as a writer. She was wonderfully warm and open and I immediately put her other novel on my TBR list.
I finally had a chance to read A Disobedient Girl and I wanted to savor every moment, but I quickly became entwined in the plot and finished it quickly. Ms. Freeman is one of those writers who brings all the things I love about reading – introducing me to interesting characters, bringing me to places I have never seen but easily imagine through her beautiful descriptions, a plot that pulls me in and doesn’t let go.
A Disobedient Girl alternates chapters between Latha and Biso, two Sri Lankan women whose lives you think are intertwined, but how isn’t made clear until the very last chapters. Latha is an orphan servant girl working for the Vithanage family where the lines blur between servant and master due to her friendship with Thara, the daughter of the family. We follow Latha and Thara from a young age, through puberty and into adulthood and marriages and affairs and much heartbreak.
In her chapters, we follow Biso as she and her three small children escape life with an abusive husband leaving their home near the sea and journeying into the hill country to her Aunt’s house. Biso and her children encounter one obstacle after another and her perseverance and belief in a better life is steadfast until the end, when they are separated.
As one chapter ends and another begins, there is often a thread that connects the two stories. You have a sense that Ms. Freeman is playing with time so the connections are not immediate, but it creates a seamless and mesmerizing storytelling.
I don’t want to give away the ending, but whenever I thought I knew how Biso and Latha were connected I was always wrong. Ms. Freeman keeps you interested and worried about these two women and what will happen to them. She ties everything together with the theme of family – the ones we are born to and those that we create through love and understanding.