Ballantine. Aug. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9780593238042. $27. F
Petra is an optician in Cyprus whose husband dies just before the birth of their daughter Aliki. Petra hires a maid, Nisha, through an employment agency to keep house and provide childcare. Petra knows little about Nisha’s family or background, and sees her as nothing more than a servant, even as Nisha runs the household for seven years and becomes a de facto mother to Aliki. Before coming to Cyprus, Nisha had lost her husband in a mining accident in their native Sri Lanka, and had to leave her home and her own baby daughter in order to earn an income. When Nisha suddenly disappears from Cyprus, there is initially little concern. No alarm is raised; no action is taken. Eventually, Petra begins to investigate and discovers how little she knows about Nisha. Then other immigrant maids go missing and Cyprus’s police refuse to help, which raises questions on a far wider and systemic scale.
VERDICT Lefteri (The Beekeeper of Aleppo) describes income disparity, predatory employment agencies, the mistreatment of workers, and how those who have the duty to protect and defend often casually shrug off that responsibility. Her characters are compelling and sometimes infuriatingly mired in their own oblivion. Readers interested in social inequities, human relations, and social justice will find this a good read. Recommended.
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