Book Review Of “Girls Burn Brighter” By Shoba Rao @Flatironbooks

A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, about a once-in-a-lifetime friendship between two girls who are driven apart but never stop trying to find one another again.

When Poornima first meets Savitha, she feels something she thought she lost for good when her mother died: hope. Poornima’s father hires Savitha to work one of their sari looms, and the two girls are quickly drawn to one another. Savitha is even more impoverished than Poornima, but she is full of passion and energy. She shows Poornima how to find beauty in a bolt of indigo cloth, a bowl of yogurt rice and bananas, the warmth of friendship. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond the arranged marriage her father is desperate to lock down for her. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend again. Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls’ perspectives as they face relentless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them.

In breathtaking prose, Shobha Rao tackles the most urgent issues facing women today: domestic abuse, human trafficking, immigration, and feminism. At once a propulsive page-turner and a heart-wrenching meditation on friendship, Rao’s debut novel is a literary tour de force. (From Goodreads)

Thank you to Flatiron Books for sending me an ARC of this book for free, in exchange of an honest review. All opinions are my own.

First thing I have to say, is this was an emotional gut punch of a read. Second thing I want to say is, after reading this, I feel very fortunate to live in the country that I live in. To have the freedoms that I have. I will never again take that for granted. Sometimes it’s hard for me to fathom, and wrap my head around the way other people have to live in different countries. My heart goes out to the people who suffer through this kind of stuff.

Friendship, is one of the best things to happen to a person, and when you find that friend you would go to the ends of the Earth for, you found someone special. The bond between Poornima and Savitha was beautiful, to witness everything they went through, the way they both fought horrific fights, and Poornima, doing everything she could to find Savitha. It was genuinely beautiful.

Both girls suffered some of the worst things any woman, hell any person could. From domestic violence, to rape, to slavery, to sex trafficking. It’s all in the pages of this book. It is neither a happy book, or a fluffy book about friendship. This one is deep, it’s heavy, and it is intense. definitely not for the more sensitive reader. Big kudos here, to Rao for writing about very disturbing topics, but leaving a lot of the graphic parts out. For letting the reader come to the conclusion of the bad that was happening.

There were a few things I did not particularly care for in this book, I don’t want to divulge them in my review as they will be sort of spoiler-ish. But overall, I did enjoy this book, it took me over 100 pages to be truly engulfed in it. But once I got there I did not want to put it down. I will also be completely honest here, the ending, I wanted more, I was not a fan of how the book was ended. But I suppose it was ended in such a manor for creative purposes, to leave it open for interpretation. Rao has some great writing and story telling skills, this was a fantastic debut novel (she has written previous short stories), and I do hope to read more from her.

“But what about love?”
“What is love, Poori?” Savitha said. What is love if not a hunger?

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About the Author- 

SHOBHA RAO moved to the United States from India at the age of seven. She is the winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, and her story “Kavitha and Mustafa” was chosen by T.C. Boyle for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2015. She is the author of the short story collection, AN UNRESTORED WOMAN, and the novel, GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER. She lives in San Francisco.