'That's the thing with girls, isn't it?' he said. 'Whenever they stand on the edge of something, you can't help it, you can't. You think, Push. That's all it would take. Just one little push.'
It took me some time to finish Girls Burn Brighter. I started it in Baltimore last week (photo taken on Federal Hill), and didn't finish it until yesterday. The book chronicles a relationship between two Indian women that is not exactly platonic, nor romantic. I would be interested to hear other opinions on this, actually...Was there romance between Poornima and Savitha or was this just a friendship? There were passages that made me wonder whether they were in love. Regardless, I tend to appreciate stories focused on relationships between women. A few of my Goodreads friends loved Rao's debut, so I had high hopes going into this. I want to be clear: there are parts of Girls Burn Brighter that I appreciate. Generally though, I found the characters' unrelenting suffering completely exhausting (and nightmare inducing). By the middle chapters, I was entirely desensitized. There was no respite from the grinding physical, emotional, and sexual pain here, making it impossible for me to maintain genuine emotion through the whole novel. Diksha Basu, author of The Windfall, perfectly captures my sentiments in her New York Times review: "The pure evil that Savitha and Poornima face is so shocking and so unbelievably constant, that the reader ends up numbed to the horror. All men are evil; mothers-in-law (of course) are evil; sisters-in-law are evil; matchmakers are evil; even strangers on train platforms are evil. Everyone is evil." Basu also mentions the problematic "exotic India" framework in Girls Burn Brighter -- I noticed this as well and chalked it up to Rao's desire to appeal to broad readership in the US (which I realize is a vaguely problematic assumption on my part). So I didn't love this book, but I can most certainly understand why lots of women enjoyed it. I will pay attention to whatever Rao publishes next.