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Reviews of The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

The Bandit Queens

A Novel

by Parini Shroff

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff X
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2024, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Ahima
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About this Book

Book Summary

A young Indian woman finds the false rumors that she killed her husband surprisingly useful—until other women in the village start asking for her help getting rid of their own husbands—in this razor-sharp debut.

Five years ago, Geeta lost her no-good husband. As in, she actually lost him—he walked out on her and she has no idea where he is. But in her remote village in India, rumor has it that Geeta killed him. And it's a rumor that just won't die.

It turns out that being known as a "self-made" widow comes with some perks. No one messes with her, harasses her, or tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It's even been good for business; no one dares to not buy her jewelry.

Freedom must look good on Geeta, because now other women are asking for her"expertise," making her an unwitting consultant for husband disposal.

And not all of them are asking nicely.

With Geeta's dangerous reputation becoming a double-edged sword, she has to find a way to protect the life she's built—but even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry. What happens next sets in motion a chain of events that will change everything, not just for Geeta, but for all the women in their village.

Filled with clever criminals, second chances, and wry and witty women, Parini Shroff's The Bandit Queens is a razor-sharp debut of humor and heart that readers won't soon forget.

One

The women were arguing. The loan officer was due to arrive in a few hours, and they were still missing two hundred rupees. Rather, Farah and her two hundred rupees were missing. The other four women of their loan group had convened, as they did every Tuesday, to aggregate their respective funds.

"Where is she?" Geeta asked.

No one answered. Instead, the women pieced their respective Farah sightings into a jigsaw of gossip that, to Geeta's ears at least, failed to align. Saloni—a woman whose capacity for food was exceeded only by her capacity for venom—goaded most of the conversation.

"This isn't the first time," Priya said.

"And you know it won't be the last," Saloni finished.

When Preity mentioned she was fairly certain she'd seen Farah buying hashish, Geeta felt it best to nudge them to more prosaic matters. "Varunbhai is not going to like this."

"Well, now we know where her money's going," Priya said.

"Some devout Muslim." Saloni sniffed, the gesture dainty for a woman of ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. At the very beginning of the novel, we learn that Geeta feels ostracized and isolated by her village because of the rumors surrounding her husband's disappearance. What did you think of the "small-town" politics at play and how they affected Geeta's life in the five years before the novel opens? How do you think those same politics continued to affect Geeta and the other women over the course of the novel?
  2. When Farah comes to Geeta and asks for her help in doing away with Samir the same way she supposedly rid herself of Ramesh, Geeta realizes that the reputation she's leaned on to help build her new life has now become a double-edged sword. What do you think you would have done if you were placed in Geeta's position?
  3. One of the things ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about The Bandit Queens.
You can see the full discussion here.


Do you think violence can ever be justified?
Excerpted from my "to do the right thing, sometimes you have to do the wrong thing" answer: Initially, when thinking about this question, my thinking was that violence should never be resorted to, but when I think ... - BuffaloGirl

Farah approaches Geeta for help in doing away with Samir. What would you have done if placed in Geeta's position?
I know Farah was in a bad place, but I would not have helped her kill her husband. I would not have been adverse to helping her and her children flee their home and get to a safe place far away, but killing him is a resounding N-O!. - BuffaloGirl

Karem tells Geeta "Sometimes to do the right thing, you have to do the wrong one first." What do you think he means?
I assume that he means that sometimes one has to break the rules, the law, the norms, etc. in order to reach a higher purpose. Being brought up to be a rule follower that would be somewhat foreign and difficult for me, but I realize that often in ... - BuffaloGirl

Karem tells Geeta that love isn't a feeling, it's a "choice you renew every day." Do you agree with him?
I believe this to be so with romantic love, but I'm not so sure with maternal/paternal love, familial love, love of your fellow man, etc. Romantic love begins with a feeling, but it does ultimately also becomes a choice. And there are no ... - BuffaloGirl

One of the things that makes the strong female characters in the novel so relatable is that they are flawed. Which flaws made the characters feel more relatable to you?
The gossip, the grudges, the sneakiness, the lying, etc.; you name it, they displayed it. - BuffaloGirl

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Parini Shroff's The Bandit Queens is a darkly comedic tale about female friendship and women's empowerment that upholds respectful discourse about violence against women in India and the systems that perpetuate that brutality. Shroff's novel is a delicate tightrope act, always balancing on the line between comedy and tragedy. It quickly won my heart in engaging with sexism and casteism gracefully. Seamless dialogue reads as if it's from a binge-worthy Netflix series and descriptions perfectly encompass the author's balanced approach. Her acerbic wit and cheekiness surprised me throughout the novel, and I often felt like the third–person narrative was both its own character and a friend of mine...continued

Full Review (636 words)

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(Reviewed by Lisa Ahima).

Media Reviews

CrimeReads
This book is so much fun! In Parini Shroff's dark comedy, the put-upon women of a small Indian village decide to get rid of their husbands—permanently. Things quickly spiral out of control as the bodies start piling up, the police get curious, and Geeta enters into a second-chance romance with a quiet widower who runs a speakeasy. And there's a dog! What's not to love?

Good Housekeeping
This funny, feel-good read is a rollicking ride rife with memorable characters involved in ill-fated hijinks. It also serves up commentary on class, power dynamics and the role of women in society, with a feminist history lesson to boot.

Booklist (starred review)
Shroff's debut is a darkly hilarious take on gossip, caste, truth, village life, and the patriarchy. A perfect match for fans of Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer and clever, subversive storytelling.

Library Journal (starred review)
At once immensely sad ... but it has laugh-out-loud moments too. This is a deeply human book, with women surviving and overcoming in their culture while still remaining a part of it. Similar in feel to Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Kirkus Reviews
Witty one-liners, tender moments of deep female friendship, and salient truths ... [A] tale of the strength of women in impossible situations.

Publishers Weekly
In Shroff's acerbic debut, a woman helps other women escape their abusive marriages in their small village in India, often through murder... . Readers are in for a razor-stuffed treat.

The Washington Post
Shroff cleverly considers how women might achieve autonomy within rural India's patriarchal society through shrewd, if complicated, female friendships.

Author Blurb Charmaine Wilkerson, New York Times bestselling author of Black Cake
The Bandit Queens is an original, memorable, and endearing story. At times deeply serious, then laugh-out-loud funny, Parini Shroff has written a sobering but hopeful exploration of womanhood, social injustices, and second chances.

Author Blurb Cristina García, New York Times bestselling author of Dreaming in Cuban and The Lady Matador's Hotel
Parini Shroff's debut novel is a rollicking mash-up of adventure story, thriller, dark revenge, and comedy. Rooted in a rural village in India—and led by the pariah widow Geeta, whom everyone believes to have killed her husband—a handful of women band together to take back their lives, and take down the patriarchy. An immensely enjoyable read!

Author Blurb Elizabeth McCracken, bestselling author of The Souvenir Museum and The Hero of This Book
Parini Shroff's splendid The Bandit Queens is a hilarious romp about serious things—as serious as a novel gets, and as funny, too, with characters who are dear and maddening and indelible and gorgeously drawn. Twisty, compulsive, bold, surprising, moving: It's a wonderful book.

Author Blurb Téa Obreht, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger's Wife
Shroff captures the complexity of female friendship with acuity, wit, and a certain kind of magic irreverence... . The Bandit Queens is tender, unpredictable, and brimming with laugh-out-loud moments.

Reader Reviews

Tired Bookreader

Super Fun Ride
If one is looking for a book to ease feelings of disappointment for ones' spouse, this book will give the humorous side of the joy of being single. It can be much easier when the person who gives daily challenges ceases to reside in the same house. ...   Read More
Katherine Pond

Bonobos United
Having thought the caste system has been outlawed in India, it was surprising to find this tale set in current time. Still, the system is so very confusing, not the basis necessarily, but the strange differences in economic situations that can exist ...   Read More
EssEmm

Best Medicine
If laughter can cure cancer, I should be in remission soon because I just finished reading Parini Shroff's The Bandit Queens.
wincheryl

Reality in rural India
The Bandit Queens tells of the oppression of women in rural India. One husband disappears and rumors become murder. Other women ask her how she did it. She states she did not kill her husband. Geeta and the other women are part of a cooperative ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Phoolan Devi: The Real-Life "Bandit Queen"

A black-and-white illustration of Phoolan Devi, with long hair worn under a headband In Parini Shroff's The Bandit Queens, Phoolan Devi (pronounced POOH-lann DAY-vee) is a feminist symbol of strength, poise and honor to abused women, her portrait hung high in main character Geeta's home. Devi, known as India's "Bandit Queen," is the only real-world figure highlighted throughout the novel. So who exactly was she?

Devi was born on August 10, 1963 in a small rural village, Ghura Ka Purwa. She was Nishad, a sub-caste of the Mallah caste that has been socially and economically aligned with Dalits, those derogatorily known as "untouchables." Despite growing up in abject poverty and in a patriarchal society, Devi stood up for herself and was notoriously outspoken from a young age — she was not happy about the control ...

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