Summary and book reviews of Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Girls Burn Brighter

by Shobha Rao

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao X
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Published:
    Mar 2018, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Grace Symes

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, for readers of Rupi Kaur, about the extraordinary bond between two girls driven apart by circumstances but relentless in their search for one another.

Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them. They are poor. They are driven. And they are girls.

When Poornima was just a toddler, she was about to fall into a river. Her mother, beside herself, screamed at her father to grab her. But he hesitated: "I was standing there, and I was thinking…She's just a girl. Let her go…That's the thing with girls, isn't it…You think, Push. That's all it would take. Just one little push."

After her mother's death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to take care of 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 the arranged marriage her father is desperate to secure for her. 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 them.

1

Poornima never once noticed the door of the temple. Neither did Savitha. But the temple watched them closely, perched as it was on the mountain that towered over Indravalli. The village itself was near the banks of the Krishna River, a hundred or so kilometers inland from the Bay of Bengal. Though it was situated in a level valley, the hamlet was shadowed by one of the largest mountains in Andhra Pradesh, called Indravalli Konda, with the temple halfway up its eastern face. It was painted a brilliant white and looked to Savitha like a big boll of cotton. To Poornima, the temple looked like the full moon, perpetually embraced by the sky and the branches of the surrounding trees.

Poornima was ten years old when she stood outside her family's hut, staring at the temple; she turned to her father, who was seated on the hemp-rope cot behind her, and asked, "Why did you and Amma name me after the full moon?" Her mother was sitting at the loom, working, so Poornima didn't want to ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Discuss the novel's title. What does it mean to you? How is the experience of being a girl portrayed here? Did you find it eye-opening?
  2. Why do you think the author chose to begin with the story about the old woman and the temple doors? What tone does that set for the rest of the novel?
  3. How is friendship depicted in these pages? Why do you think Poornima and Savitha are so drawn to each other? What qualities do they share, and what qualities distinguish each of them? Do they change over the course of the novel?
  4. Savitha tells Poornima about encountering an owl on the road in Indravalli. The owl tells Savitha, "If two people want to be together, they'll find a way. They'll forge a way. It may seem ludicrous, even stupid, to...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Girls Burn Brighter is an extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them, who nevertheless find a way to control and shape their own destiny. With vivid language and breathtaking sincerity, Shobha Rao weaves together the lives of Poornima and Savitha, pitting the two girls' friendship against the world, and proving that power can be taken—as well as granted.   (Reviewed by Grace Symes).

Full Review Members Only (507 words).

Media Reviews

Ms. Magazine

Rao layers her debut novel with issues that face many young women worldwide, from street harassment and domestic abuse to oppressive societal norms.

Brit + Co

This debut novel is the perfect read for fans of Rupi Kaur.

The Chicago Review of Books

A confident debut novel set in India and America about the unbreakable bond between two girls. From the menacing nooks of India's underworld to the streets of Seattle, this searing novel traces the nuances of adulthood and the enduring power of childhood bonds.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Booklist

Starred Review. This powerful, heart-wrenching novel and its two unforgettable heroines offer an extraordinary example of the strength that can be summoned in even the most terrible situations.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Highly recommended for book discussion groups, this tale of sacrifice, exploitation, and reclamation is not to be missed.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Enchanting…An incisive study of a friendship's unbreakable bond.

Author Blurb Claire Cameron, author of The Bear and The Last Neanderthal
This novel burnt up my weekend. With beautiful language, warm friendships, and vivid images, once I started reading I could not stop. It’s a story of struggle and survival. Female friendship is the lifeline.

Author Blurb Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao blew my heart up. Heart-shards everywhere. I am in awe of the warmth and humanity in this book, even as it explores some incredibly dark places.

Reader Reviews

lani

a gut wrenching read
Being born a girl, and into a poor Indian caste, is the unfortunate fate of two girls who meet when Poornima's father hires Savitha to help weave saris after the death of his wife. With Savitha, Poornima finds a love and sisterly bond that totally ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Charkha

In Girls Burn Brighter, the charkha, a kind of spinning wheel, is a means of self-sufficiency and independence for Poornima and Savitha. Savitha carries the scraps of the sari she made for Poornima across the world, as a reminder of the simple happiness the two girls found when weaving together.

The charkha is one of the oldest known forms of the spinning wheel, originating in India between 500 and 1000 CE. It replaced the previous method of hand-spinning with a spindle. With the invention of the charkha, the spindle could be rotated by a large wheel turned by hand, resulting in spun yarn that could then be wound on to the spindle. The charkha was often a woman's only source of livelihood, allowing her to work from home and look after ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Girls Burn Brighter, try these:

  • Hunger jacket

    Hunger

    by Roxane Gay

    Published 2018

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    From the New York Times best-selling author of Bad Feminist, a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself.

  • The Parking Lot Attendant jacket

    The Parking Lot Attendant

    by Nafkote Tamirat

    Published 2018

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    A mesmerizing, indelible coming-of-age story about a girl in Boston's tightly-knit Ethiopian community who falls under the spell of a charismatic hustler out to change the world

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Calypso
    Calypso
    by David Sedaris
    David Sedaris' Calypso is every bit as hilarious and irreverent, as clever and incisive, as ...
  • Book Jacket: The Word Is Murder
    The Word Is Murder
    by Anthony Horowitz
    A wealthy widow enters a London funeral home to make arrangements for her own funeral. Six hours ...
  • Book Jacket: Call Me American
    Call Me American
    by Abdi Nor Iftin
    As a boy growing up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Abdi Nor Iftin loved watching action ...
  • Book Jacket
    Driving Miss Norma
    by Ramie Liddle, Tim Bauerschmidt
    In my cultural life, I've met and been awed by two Normas: The demanding, clueless, fiercely ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

From a dazzling new literary voice, a debut novel about a Palestinian family caught between present and past.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A Place for Us
    by Fatima Farheen Mirza

    A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If You See Me, Don't Say Hi

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi by Neel Patel

Patel's stories introduce a bold and timely new literary voice.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A P Saved I A P E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.