The Third Daughter
I learned from this book – learned about Argentinian culture in the 1890s, about life in a brothel (seriously), mostly about the fact of the women who struggled to survive in said brothels. I might have guessed that they would be slaves, but I didn’t know the details of how that came to be.
The voice of The Third Daughter is that of Batya, a mere 14 years old when we meet, and moving from place to place in the Russian countryside with her family in an attempt to flee the pogroms that were targeting Jews. Her father is overjoyed when, at one random stop, a handsome, well-dressed, well-spoken Jewish gentleman is taken with Batya and asks for her hand in marriage.
He pays her father handsomely and, after promising to wait two years to wed her, takes the young girl with him that very night, to be looked after by his sister in Buenos Aires until Batya is of age.
All is not as it seems, of course. We’re in Batya’s mind as she learns this, painful truth after painful truth. The fact of her being one of many in a wide-spread sex-trafficking ring taking young girls from Russia to South America does nothing to mitigate the horror.
But Batya is a survivor. Therein lies the joy of The Third Daughter.
The story is alternately beautiful and heart-wrenching, well-researched, and vividly but tastefully written. Several parts felt superfluous to me, but for the most part, the pacing is good. We hear so much nowadays about women fighting to survive under savage conditions. The Third Daughter comes at it from a different angle, but the themes of exploitation, sisterhood, and empowerment remain. I do recommend this book.