Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New Release Review—Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Published: March 6, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Print ARC
Rating: 4.5 Stars

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 Brighterintroduces 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.

You know that moment when a books message finally clicks and you’re just left wondering how you’ll ever be the same after hearing it? Yeah, I’m in that boat right now. I knew Girls Burn Brighter would be a five star read even before I read it. The cover just screams read me and remain forever changed. Read it and see how your eyes become wide open. Here I am, an American woman, reading about how women from other countries get treated so terribly. Not that being a women in today’s worked in America no less, is better. Women from other countries aren't even treated like second-class citizens, instead, the women are treated like the dirt beneath your feet. It’s disheartening. That’s why as women of the free world, we speak up for those who don’t have a voice. 

In Girls Burn Brighter, we follow the lives of two very special girls who turn into women before they're ready. Poornima’s been living her life on autopilot ever since she lost her mother. Then Savitha walks in and changes everything. The two become the best of friends and confidants. One night tragedy strikes Savitha, leaving her broken beyond repair. There’s only one thing for her to do—run. Run away and never look back. Meanwhile, Poornima is going through her own trials. It’s been trouble finding her a suitable husband to marry. None of them want her. Until one comes along that demands a huge dowry and costs Poornima more than just a hefty sum to keep her. 

We follow the girls on a journey that’s full of blood, sweat, and tears. But they go on. Want to know why? Because they are strong beyond compare. They’ve looked adversity in the face and said, “No! Not today!”. This was a powerful read that features women we need to look up to in order to fight back. We are here and we won’t back down. Last, I want to tell you the message that has stayed with me ever since I let go of the last page. But if I were to tell you, then you wouldn’t be able to see the beauty of the story when you read it. So I leave you with this, pick up the book and prepared to be wowed. 

*Thank you so much to the publisher for providing me with a copy for an honest and unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Buy the Book:

About the Author:
SHOBHA RAO moved to the United States from India at the age of seven. She is the winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, and her story “Kavitha and Mustafa” was chosen by T.C. Boyle for inclusion in Best American Short Stories 2015. She is the author of the short story collection, AN UNRESTORED WOMAN, and the novel, GIRLS BURN BRIGHTER. She lives in San Francisco.

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