I’ll admit it: I could never write a fully unbiased review of The Bracelet. I happen to know the author, Roberta Gately—in fact, I’ve known her since before she was, yanno, published. We met in the fall of 2007 at the “Pitch and Shop” conference in New York City, and we instantly bonded. Maybe it was the Boston accent, but to me, Roberta felt like home.
Pitch and Shop is a small conference designed to help writers hone their book “pitch,” the short pithy version that will hopefully sell the story to agents—and eventually, to publishers. We were all rather naïve, thinking we’d meet the agent of our dreams and be published within a few months—except Roberta. Though she worked hard and learned as much as the rest of us, she never lost sight of the realities.
“Most of these people don’t have a prayer of being published,” she told me between sessions. “But they all have such great stories!”
After the conference we kept in touch, passing manuscripts back and forth and sharing our stories of potential sales and near misses. She was one of the first people I called after signing my first publishing contract—and I was thrilled to get her call a few months later, announcing that Lipstick in Afghanistan had sold. A year or so later, I had the pleasure of reading the finished version and seeing all the improvements she’d made to the story since the first version.
Roberta combines the three T’s of publishing success: Talent, Tenacity, and Touch. By “touch” I mean the ability to reach out to others and support them. In spite of her success, Roberta has stayed attached to the real world, continuing with her nursing work and fitting in her writing around a very busy schedule. I’m in constant awe of how much she gets done every day—and most of it is in the service of others.
But about the book: The Bracelet is told by Abby Howell, a nurse from Boston who goes to Pakistan to work for the UN. Haunted by a violent scene she witnesses, Abby teams up with a reporter to try to stem the tide of human trafficking going on around her. Caught up in her humanitarian efforts, she doesn’t realize that she has landed right in the middle of an enormous trafficking ring—and may become its next victim.
I’ve always appreciated fiction that takes me to a place I’ve never been, and The Bracelet does just that. Seeing modern Pakistan through the eyes of an American nurse makes it easy to spot both the joys and misery of a world so different from our own. As Abby finds commonality with well-meaning Pakistanis who are trying to improve the world around them, amidst the flies and the heat and the dust, the country that fills our news headlines became real to me at last.
My only complaint is that the ending seemed a bit too neatly packaged, but that may be because I didn’t want the story to end at all.
You’ll have to wait for your copy of The Bracelet, which is coming out in the fall of 2012. But since it is so rare to find a story that helps us to really understand a country on the opposite side of the world, it will definitely be worth the wait.