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.
“That’s the way it is: If two people want to be together, they’ll find a way. They’ll forge a way.”
Shobha Rao, Girls Burn Brighter
Every now and then you come across a story that deeply moves you and pulls on the strings of your heart. Girls Burn Brighter is one of those extraordinary and special novels. Rao is such an amazing and gifted storyteller! I honestly cannot praise her enough. Girls Burn Brighter is the kind of book I see myself reading repeatedly. Yes, it’s that beautifully written! Though Poornima and Savitha are dealt such terrifying and unpleasant setbacks, their spirit and determination are what keep their hopes alive. I beg you to read this book with an open heart and mind because it is not a light read. Girls Burn Brighter deals with difficult topics, such as human trafficking, sex trade, misogyny, rape, and poverty. However, it is also about the unbreakable love and bond between two friends. Yes, some parts will be tough, but so worth it. Poornima and Savitha will live in my heart forever. I have to thank my wonderful book club Lit on H St for choosing such a fantastic novel!!
I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Shobha in June and she was as delightful and beautiful as I imagined she would be.