Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao


I was avoiding this book for quite some time because I knew how difficult some of themes would be. This was a mistake, though. It’s true that you have to prepare yourself for difficult themes, but I found it much more hopeful than previously anticipated.

This novel follows Poornima and Savitha, two teenage girls at the start of the book in their struggles in being unwanted daughters of poor families and their budding friendship amidst trying times in the village of Indravilli, India. Without spoiling too much, the girls are separated from each other, seemingly forever. They each survive atrocious acts committed against them and strive to become reunited with each other.

I’m not doing to lie, there are many parts of this book that are brutal, heartbreaking and infuriating. Amongst that, there is great resilence, hope and beauty. The fierceness of friendship. There is lovely prose.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore a novel that addresses the rampant misogyny present in this culture but also the resilence of friendship and beautiful (but not overly descriptive) prose.

Poornima wanted to get up, pull Savitha up from her plate, and embrace her. No one– not ever– had thought to make something for her. Her mother, of course, but she was dead. And the weight of her mother’s hand, holding the comb in her hair, was all she had left of her. At times, many times, she gripped that memory, that weight, as if it alone could guide her through dark and savage forest paths, and eventually, she hoped, into a clearing, but it wasn’t true. It couldn’t. All that memory could do was give small solace.”

Her gaze was even, and indifferent, as she stood at the back door looking out. And it was when Poornima saw this gaze, this indifference, that she understood: the girl had lost her sense of light. It was all the same to her, to all the girls, really: light and dark, morning and night. But it wasn’t an outside light they’d lost a sense of, Poornima realized. It was an interior one. And so that was the aspect of girlhood they’d lost: a sense of their own light.”

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