Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's been a long time since I've burned through a book so quickly and "Girls Burn Brighter" was the perfect one to reignite my furious reading skills. But I must warn you dear reader that Shobha Rao sculpted a violent tale of two young women determined to save each other with the most beautiful words. CW: Rape, violence against women, physical abuse
Poornima and Savitha become fast friends. They are separated after a horrible incident. The remainder of the novel is their quest to save themselves and reunite.
Reading this book is like learning about atrocities through stained glass. It is beautiful to look at, but the details are heart wrenching. In one scene Poornima, who has little education, discovers that her husband's esteemed career as an accountant is overblown math:
"She saw that the first row on the topmost page did make sense. It was imply the numbers in the second, third, fourth, and firth columns added up, and listed in the sixth column. The first column was just a date. That was easy enough; she'd learned addition well before the fifth class, which was the last year she'd attended school...Was this what [her husband] did at work all day? She nearly laughed out loud (page 98)."
As she works to truly understand accounting in between her harsh marriage, she discovers pride in the work and is shaken at the feeling. This helps her discover a strength that she will need to fall back on over and over.
Poornima and Savitha have to decide between terrible choices so many times it wears on your heart. Rao's description of the too-often close relationship between love and fear, and then one woman's sweet discovery of a banana split will bring you to tears. There are many times I questioned why I was still reading the book. Then Rao gifts another gorgeous line like:
"Every moment in a woman's life was a deal."
"Girls Burn Brighter" is a tale of two undereducated young women in India that feels familiar even to this non-Indian reader. Although I would like to read reviews from Indian woman as this novel does travel through many stereotypes. In the end this is a tale of how the love between two friends can move mountains and be the source of unimaginable strength.
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