Girls Burn Brighter

Shobha Rao

Flatiron, 2018

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

A searing, electrifying debut novel set in India and America, about the extraordinary bond between two girls who are driven apart but never stop trying to find one another again.
Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them. They are poor. They are smart. 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 and her father until the matchmaker can find her a suitable match.  So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the 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 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 Brighter introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within them.

"Girls Burn Brighter 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. I'm going to be thinking about Girls Burn Brighter for a while, and you're going to be hearing a lot about it."
Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky

"There is a powerful, subtly unarticulated, force of nature drive at the heart of Shoba Rao's blazing, beautiful novel....Rao gives voice and visibility to people seldom given either....This book goes on, around the world, to shimmer with an immensity and intensity few other books of our time approach."
Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company