Monday, April 2, 2018

Girls Burn Brighter - Book Review

Poornima's father hires Savitha to weave cloth to make saris and the two girls become dear friends. Even though they brighten each other's dark days, life is not easy for the girls. They are poor and they are girls in a society that does not value them as individuals. Poornima has long grown up knowing that her father wished she had been a boy or that she had drowned as a child. Circumstances beyond their control have separated and broken the girls but Poornima is determined to find her friend.

It took me weeks to read Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao. I found myself reading a few chapters at a time and then setting it aside to read something else. I finally finished it and have been contemplating how I feel about it ever since. I've read many books that take place in India. I've read many books about girls in unfortunate situations in other countries and even in the US. I've read many books about the horrific sex trade. They are hard books to read and similarly, Girls Burn Brighter was a difficult read. We read these kinds of books to be enlightened. Hopefully, this enlightenment inspires us to fight for changes, to understand others and at the very least be aware of our own privilege. But at the heart of every novel, we want and crave a glimmer of hope for these girls. As readers we need to feel like their lives can somehow improve and that there is a way out of the suffering and pain.

The characters in Girls Burn Brighter are sympathetic and easy to care about. They are fighters. In spite of being in situations with little choice and freedom, Poornima and Savitha have a fire to find something better. Poornima's greatest desire is to find Savitha. She will travel to America to find her.  Unfortunately, Poornima was not in a position to actually free either of them if they found each other. She didn't have a plan beyond reuniting with her friend and in not truly considering whether this was a good idea, may have actually enslaved Savitha longer. I needed more than just their reunion. I really wanted them to succeed and escape from their captive lives. This hope kept me reading. The ending was so disappointing. Happy or sad, I'm almost always satisfied with the ending if it matches the theme and plot. But, I read the last eighteen pages of the book three times to see if I was missing any clues. It was vague. It was incomplete. It left me feeling frustrated and overly dissatisfied with the novel. Perhaps that was the point.

I definitely won't soon forget Girls Burn Brighter.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao is published by Flatiron Books and was released on March 6, 2018.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to read this one but I'm concerned that I will also be disappointed in the ending. These kinds of books are super important, though, so I do think I'll pick it up.