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The Parcel

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,039 ratings  ·  165 reviews
This powerful work about a transgender sex worker in the red-light district of Bombay who is given an unexpected task, is a gripping literary page-turner--difficult and moving, surprising and tender.

The Parcel's astonishing heart, soul and unforgettable voice is Madhu--born a boy, but a eunuch by choice--who has spent most of her life in a close-knit clan of transgender se
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Vintage Books Canada (first published September 6th 2016)
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Misha Ali Pojeetive is a slang variation of the English word positive (HIV positive).

A lot of native Hindi speakers replace the z sound in words with a j. For e…more
Pojeetive is a slang variation of the English word positive (HIV positive).

A lot of native Hindi speakers replace the z sound in words with a j. For example, an Urdu speaker would say "Zarra sa" (a little bit) while a Hindu speaker would say "Jarra sa". The z sound in "positive" becomes "pojitive".(less)
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"Nature chooses who will be transgender; individuals don't choose this."

----Mercedes Ruehl

Anosh Irani, an Indo-Canadian novelist, has penned a heart touching and extremely enlightening story about an Indian transgender and a very young "virgin" prostitute, where the transgender is given a job to groom the virgin girl for first time consensual sex with a customer, but through the girl's grooming journey, the transgender shares the story of her life from the struggling days of transformation to
I can't say I enjoyed this book about sex trafficking and the sex trade in Mumbhai. I found it tough reading about young girls sold by their families into the sex trade, and the processes used to get girls ready to service many men every day. The beatings, drug use, humiliation, disease and general living conditions in the red light district ensure short life spans for these girls.

This story is told from the point of view of Madhu, a transgender former sex worker with experience 'breaking' young
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if I would have read this book had I not happened to catch a radio interview with the author. He said he just had to write it. It takes place near where he grew up in India. The red light district was close enough that it stayed with him all these years forcing him to tell a story about it. So I had to read it.

This story teeters on the line between fiction and non-fiction...which makes it all the more terrible. It's told from the point of view of Mahdu. In the beginning, a boy who a
Eric Anderson
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel was published at the perfect time for me. I'd read Arundhati Roy's sprawling new novel “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” over the summer. While I admired so much about her impassioned writing, I was disappointed that she didn't concentrate more on the full story of Anjum, an intersex character or hijra whose story begins the novel. Then, more recently, I read Shobha Roa's book of short stories “An Unrestored Woman” for the Anna & Eric Book Club and one of the stories which struck me ...more
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read Arundhati Roy's Booker nominated The Ministry of Utmost Happiness a few years back, I was most struck by the initial hundred or so pages, which detailed the life of the hijra Anjum. So when I heard about this book, which is also centered on a hijra character, I was intrigued. Irani's book is far grittier however, and reading it was both harrowing and disturbing, because most of it details Madhu, the hijra's, preparation of a young 10 year old girl from Nepal to begin a life of prosti ...more
Aritri Chatterjee
Remember being stuck in a phase of life that makes you cringe and suffocate. You feel so out of place and your only reasonable action is desperately trying to fit in. Now imagine, having to do that throughout your life because you are confined within the shackles of the wrong body. Add to that, the uncooperative and cruel society that doesn’t let you be at peace. Constant disapproval and ostracism from everyone who is unlike you is bound to drive you bitter and crazy. So what do you do in such c ...more
When it came to the opening of a parcel, Madhu did not believe in the conventional approach wherein the madam and a couple of prostitutes pinned the parcel down to a bed while the customer broke her in. The parcels momentarily turned into eels, the terror electric, until their muscles went limp. There was no doubt that this was the quickest method, and it required minimal effort on the brothel owner's part, but Madhu surmised that in the long run it was counterproductive. The sudden breaking
Ameema Saeed
I received an ARC of this book from Indigo Head Office.

Honestly, as excited as I was about this book (a novel about a Hijra in India), it fell a little flat. First things first, I was a little disappointed to learn that Anosh Irani did not interview a Hijra until after he had written his first draft of the book. That seems presumptive to me, and if [you] want to write about a population that is so often shafted, and not talked about, it is important to lend them an authentic voice.

As obvious as
Kelsi H
Please read all of my reviews at!

The Parcel is a unique novel about a transgender sex worker in the red light district of Bombay. Madhu is aging out of the prostitute market and she needs to make sure that she's still necessary to the brothel, so she takes an undesirable job. Madhu is given the shocking task of handling a "parcel" - a child who has been kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. In the world of sex trafficking, the victims soon become willing parti
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, first-reads
Won in the First Reads giveaway.

Was really good, although I would like to read a book about the hijra community by a hijra writer.

I understand that this subject matter would be dark, but sometimes it was like the grittiness was being forced. Like there would be several wonderfully written parts and then the writer would remember to use a jarring word. There was one line about cigarette smoke dissipating like an abortion. It just seemed random and unnecessary. But the rest of the book was beautif
Andy Weston
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canada
Set in of the crumbling Kamathipura neighbourhood, this is a sad, but fascinating piece of Mumbai noir, loosely disguised as a social commentary, with occasional very necessary dollops of dark humour.
The novel’s 40 year old protagonist is Madhu, an Indian eunuch, or hijra , a group alienated by society, criminalised under the law, harassed by police and the public, and overwhelmingly poor. Once a sought after prostitute, now obliged to beg for money, Madhu lives with her much loved Hijra ‘fa
Excruciating and profoundly disturbing, nevertheless this is a story that broke my heart.

The things that made one human - love, hope, health- had been ripped from her calmly and precisely.

Anosh Irani grew up very close to the neighborhood where this story takes place, giving an authenticity and immediacy to the goings on that he documents in this fictional account of a corner of the complex sex trade in India. This is very much the territory of Arundhati Roys epic new novel, but they are not
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Parcel is not my story. Yet as I read its tangled and complex narrative, I couldn’t help but feel as though my own thoughts had been exposed on the page. This is easily the most accurate but also most honest depiction of the cycle of abuse and surviving what should have killed you that I have ever read. It shows how easy those who have been victimized by the system can in turn uphold the very system that destroyed their lives. Irani skillfully brings the red light district of Bombay to life ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read fiction to fetch me truths about the lives of other people, especially those whose life experiences are very different to mine. And ‘The Parcel’ really delivered. Some of the actions of Madhu, the unforgettable protagonist, are casually vicious, while others are generous. Some are petty, others are almost operatic in scale. But there is always an underlying despair. Madhu lives in the brutal straightjacket world of Mumbai’s red light district - a ‘hijra’ who is neither male or female. In ...more
Maggie the Muskoka Library Mouse
This book took me way too long to read. It was hard for me to understand, since a glossary of terms was not included, and there were many unfamiliar words I would have liked to know so I could understand the context better. It used very crude language, which made sense based on the setting of the novel. It took me quite some time to become immune to the words used.
George K. Ilsley
This is a difficult book to rate because it was a painful book to read. It is an ordeal to read about children and sex trafficking, and the main character is complicated. The book is well written and so on, but—
Ramya Jeyaraman
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty good novel about eunuchs and prostitutes in the red light area of Bombay. Startling, honest, and raw. Loved the writing through all the pages.
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the parcel Madhu the main character is both a hero and a villan. Although this novel is incredibly challenging and possibly could be too challenging for some, overall it is a good example of the issue of values and how our environment impacts on our values and beliefs system. Madhu has accepted that the parcel was to become a prostitute but when she found out the entire plan this causes her to rebel. To many of us the fact that the parcel had been trafficked would have been enough, because it ...more
Short listed for the Governor General's and Writer's Trust literary awards, I found the writing inconsistent and failed to connect on an emotional level until the conclusion. This is a dark, horrifying story about the sex workers in the red light district of Bombay (Mumbai). I expected gritty and some graphic content, but felt some vulgarities were thrown in when not necessary for shock value. Also the author included Indian words and phrases, making me stop to attempt to find translations or gu ...more
Lauren Davis
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Set amid the raucous swirl of Bombay’s Kamathipura Red Light District, The Parcel is a searing indictment of the sex trafficking industry and a compassionate portrait of a troubled but resilient community. In Madhu, the transgender, retired prostitute at the heart of the novel, Anosh Irani has created a powerful yet flawed character to steward the reader through difficult, often disturbing material. Her struggles – with her past, with the legacy she might leave behind – are rendered with honest ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the main reasons I read is to enter worlds unknown to me – physical worlds and more interior or personal ones. Anosh Irani’s novel The parcel meets this criterion perfectly. It is set in the Kamathipura red-light district of Bombay/Mumbai, and its main character is a eunuch, or hijra, named Madhu. Brought up as a boy, but never comfortable with that gender, teased and ostracised for his feminine walk, he joins the hijra world at 14 years of age. When we first meet her, though, she’s forty ...more
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
Remarkable storytelling, unforgettable characters, and strong prose. I would highly recommend this book.
Scribe Publications
The material can be desolating, but Irani generates plenty of black comic detail, evoking the vividness and moral ambiguity of the best Indian noir.’
Cameron Woodhead, The Saturday Age, Pick of the Week

The Parcel is a magnificent novel, with powerfully imagined characters who yanked me into their lives from the first page and would not let go of me until the last. It is bold, bawdy, tender, funny, sorrowful, all that life is made up of, and when I did reach the end I felt abandoned.
Anita Rau Bada
Distant Sounds
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 5-star
[big breathe] I'm not sure I've read such a novel like this. I felt like Anosh Irani had dropped me in the streets of Kamathipura and I was witnessing all that was happening, as I stood close to Madhu, the main protagonist, close enough to feel the light brush of her sari. This story was so real, with characters whose pulses I could feel on every page. I could hear all the noises, see all the bodies as they passed by me on the narrow streets, and taking in all the smells. So many emotions floode ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
4.5 stars. Madhu lives in a world where happy endings are, if not impossible, then extremely hard to come by. Or maybe there are no happy endings, just endings with varying levels of suffering. Nothing in The Parcel is black and white, and everyone is implicated in the pain in Kamathipura. There are also no easy fixes. The impulse to see our heroine riding off into the sunset doesn't belong. Tearing down brothels, evicting the sex workers, sending girls back to their villages creates new pain an ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm probably going to cry for the remainder of the weekend at this book. What a heartbreaking, but hugely important book about the Hijra community, Bombay's red light district, human trafficking, and the fight for freedom and redemption. ...more
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marilyn by: Colette
Very interesting, very sad and painful book. I had to read it in small chunks, because i found it too hard to read for long periods
Sep 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A difficult subject and a difficult read at times. But worth it; enjoyed it
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Anosh Irani is an Indo-Canadian novelist and playwright.

His novels and plays have garnered much critical and popular acclaim and he is considered to be a rising star in Canadian literature.

He was born and grew up in Mumbai, India in a Parsi family of relatively recent Persian origin (hence the surname Irani), but now makes his home in Vancouver, Canada.

He is a graduate of the University of Brit

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“A bride had been violated on that most sacred of nights. But what about ordinary women on ordinary nights? Or indecent women, perhaps, like sex workers? Or hijras? What happened when less-than-ordinary souls got violated? Why not create a furor then? Why let their pain slide away like rainwater into a gutter?” 2 likes
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