Flash House is a complex story of intrigue and survival set in post-WWII Central Asia. Joanna Shaw has relocated with her husband, a journalist, from the heart of the U.S. capital to smoldering, teeming Delhi. She runs a refuge for young girls trafficked in Delhi’s red light district. On one of her outings to find children in need of rescue, she spots Kamla, a striking young Kashmiri child, who she later learns was kidnapped and sold into a brothel. Joanna sets out to save her and in the end, the favor is returned.
Meanwhile, Joanna’s husband disappears while tracking an explosive story in the mountains of Kashmir and she, her young son, Kamla, and the mysterious Lawrence, a close friend of her husband, set out on a journey across Central Asia to find him. The trek marks the beginning of a trying emotional and physical journey through harsh terrain and even harsher political landscapes.
This fascinating historical era, encompassing the end of the Raj in India, the violence of the partition India and Pakistan, and the advent of the Cold War is one not often traversed in fiction. Ms. Liu bravely and successfully tackles this complicated arena. The sensory descriptions of the stenches and aromas, the melees and cacophonies of India, as well as the sociological observations juxtaposing the tremendous poverty and wealth are quite vivid and well done. This is a novel that will hold the reader’s interest through its hefty 450 pages, regardless of any misgivings about one’s ability to closely follow the political machinations. Beautiful descriptions, strongly drawn characters, and a satisfying conclusion will be the reader’s reward.