Book Review

More Than Rice: A Journey Through the Underworld of Human Trafficking is written by Pamela Kennedy Chestnut. It was released in September of 2010 and has 189 pages. It is a novel about a seventeen year-old girl, Gabriela, who was abducted from her teenage life in the Philippines, forced to obey the orders of her captors as she is moved throughout Asia. Thankfully, she has been dubbed as the “chosen one.” As such, she doesn’t have to service the clients in the dirty low-down brothel she finds herself stuck in. Instead, being strikingly beautiful, she is supposedly being saved and primed for the harem of the head evil guy who runs an international crime ring.

As she learns to cope, she realizes that she has value in encouraging and befriending the other girls she is required to care for in the brothel. She develops close friendships, grows in character, and becomes a leader to these girls. She exudes hope in a place where there might otherwise be no joy.  As Gabriella’s journey continues to prepare her to be Bad Guy’s mistress, there is a sudden surprise development in the story that even I didn’t see coming. Yet, as to not spoil the ending, I will just say that Gabriela’s courage shines and the ending of this novel is far from depressing. It was actually a pretty cool twist, making me enjoy this book more than I would have otherwise.Even so, that didn’t make the ending very realistic.

So, what did I think of More Than Rice?  I was expecting it to be very serious, in-depth, with a high volume of intrigue. Instead, I would classify it as a young adult novel, ideal for older teenage girls. Gabriela is a model heroine to connect with, while the story gives a glimpse into what life is like for a victim of human trafficking, many who are teenage girls.  This book wasn’t spectacular- it reminded me of a movie where the actors aren’t that great. For example, sometimes it was cheesy because Gabriela’s conclusions seem self-evident, strangely un-pryingly submissive, almost as if she was oblivious. Yet that kinda went against her actual character in the book.  God was also mentioned in the book, as there seemed to be little miracles happening throughout the story. I thought it was weird that Gabriela’s dead sister appears in a vision to help calm Gabriela at one point. And like I mentioned, although I liked the story, it wasn’t realistic. Victims of trafficking don’t usually have such nice treatment, let alone a way out. Overall, More Than Rice wasn’t an amazing book, but as it is so short and easy to read, I would happily pass it on to someone else to read. If you want to begin to learn about human trafficking it is a good start, but it isn’t the best novel I’ve read to comprehend this underworld.

Considering the subject, the book is actually pretty clean. There is no profanity. Because sex is obviously going on in the background of the brothel, it might be rated as having heavy sexual content. Yet, as there is almost no sexual dialogue, or description of what is happening it is really moderate.  If anything, I would rate the book as having moderate violence, because in a human trafficking situation, these girls are being kept by force and are also forced to be prostitutes. There is some other violence in the book, including a murder that the author seems to justify, which I wasn’t so sure about. And in full disclosure, the girls are drugged in the book, but again, it is not described.  But, this book gives a glimpse into a really traumatic reality for millions worldwide without making the reader themselves feel traumatized, instead  giving us hope.  And for that I give the Pamala Chestnut kudos.

To learn more about the book More Than Rice, the author and see what she suggests as the next steps to fight human trafficking, please visit her website at