Review: GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER by Shobha Rao

Janelle Advance Copy, Book Reviews, Flatiron Books, From Publisher, Literary Fiction Leave a Comment

Thank you so much Flatiron Books for providing my free copy – all opinions are my own.

“Poornima blinked, but it wasn’t tears she blinked back. What was it? She didn’t know, but she could see it—-floating in the air around her, suffocating, spinning like ash.”

Book Description: 

Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother’s death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn’t feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.

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 ruthless obstacles, Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within.

“We were once children, she thought; we were once little girls.  We once played in the dirt under the shade of a tree.”

My Review: 

Let me start by saying that this book will not make you feel good. It is heartrending with horrific scenes that will make you cringe. BUT it’s not meant to make you feel good, instead it paints a picture of the author’s very unique perspective. And what I love about this book is the strength of the two strong female protagonists that were born into a society that sees them more like property than human beings. It’s not beautiful or easy; it’s painful, raw, oppressive, and hopeless. However, it’s brilliantly told, beautifully written and it cuts right to the core.

This is a story of two young girls, Poornima and Stavitha, living in an impoverished village in India. Stavitha is hired by Poornima’s father for work, which is how they first meet. They have an instant bond and friendship that helps them deal with the darkness they have to endure. One night, a very traumatic event happens to Stavitha which drives her away. This is where the book breaks off and is told in alternating perspectives, detailing the struggles of both very strong women who go through unimaginable things. This story and these names will forever be engraved in my mind, but I’m okay with that because it’s the very least I can do.

GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER has vivid descriptions with great character development, and it reads at a quick pace. Of course I was repulsed and outraged by the deplorable, appalling acts of violence, however I value the author’s transparency about the girls’ journey. Rao does an exquisite job bringing said issues to the forefront and creates much needed, thought-provoking discussion. Even though the story is overwhelming and difficult to read, I was able to appreciate learning about the ordeal the girls experienced and their culture. Although the ending left me with more questions than answers, I feel it’s appropriate because it leaves me with hope. At least, that’s what I choose to believe.

My rating is 4.5 / 5 stars!

Click here to purchase on Amazon. 

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