Best Book of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, Shelf Awareness, Paste, LitHub, Real Simple
2018 Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist: Best Fiction
Longlisted for the 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
“Incandescent...A searing portrait of what feminism looks like in much of the world.” —Vogue
“A treat for Ferrante fans, exploring the bonds of friendship and how female ambition beats against the strictures of poverty and patriarchal societies.” —The Huffington Post
An electrifying debut novel about the extraordinary bond between two girls driven apart by circumstance but relentless in their search for one another.
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, Shobha Rao's Girls Burn Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Shobha Rao’s debut novel is nothing less than a masterpiece. It’s the story of the extraordinary friendship between Poornima and Savitha, two girls from the same Indian village whose lives diverge and intersect in stunning and often tragic ways. Brutal and almost unbearably beautiful, Rao’s portrayal of female resilience in the face of unimaginable trials is a potent reminder that power, like love, comes in many forms.
Rao's stirring debut novel (following the collection An Unrestored Woman) explores how far a woman will go to recapture the one sustaining relationship in her life. It's 2001, and Poornima and Savitha are both considered poor marriage prospects in their Indian village of Indravalli, Poornima because she's unattractive and defiant, Savitha because her family is desperately poor. When the two girls become acquainted, they recognize the value in one another that the rest of their world has failed to acknowledge. When, on the eve of Poornima's eventual wedding to a man with imperfections of his own, tragedy befalls Savitha, the two girls are separated, seemingly forever. Affecting and rich in dramatic irony, the young women's stories told in alternating sections follow their travels from village to city and eventually from India to Seattle. Although lengthy metaphysical musings threaten at times to derail the momentum, the narrative's thematic consistency and emotional urgency will pull readers along. Vivid depictions of contemporary Indian culture and harrowing accounts of human trafficking along with the novel's ambiguous ending will leave readers, and book clubs, with much to ponder and discuss.
Customer ReviewsSee All
So GOOD 100/10 !
I couldn’t put this book down. I love every page. Made me so emotional 🥺.
Girls Burn Brighter
Left me wanting more, except the tears. Absolutely captivating, yet gut wrenching too.
Girls Burn Brighter
Did not enjoy this book at all. Utter confusion, like thoughts never finished. At the end it felt the author ran out of words.