Girls Burn Brighter
By Shobha Rao
Flatiron Books, 2018. 307 pgs. Fiction
This powerful story of friendship set against the cruelties of the word is told alternatingly by two girls, both born into poverty in India. After Poornima’s mother’s death she finds little happiness in life until Savitha is hired to help with the family’s weaving business. Savitha is a breath of fresh air and Poornima soaks in the joy and hope her new friend has in abundance. But a brutal act of abuse breaks Savitha and she disappears into the Indian underworld. Poornima is left behind to an arranged marriage that brings little joy until she decides to take charge of her destiny and search for her friend.
This is not an easy story to read. Any time human trafficking is described, readers should be prepared for violence and abuse. But I felt like Rao handles these situations in a careful way without becoming too graphic while still staying true to the situation, which I admired. Her heroines are wonderful, strong, women who do what they must to stay alive and somehow manage to maintain some level of hope for the future. This is a novel that sticks with you and describes a dark part of the world few of us, thankfully, will ever know.