They meet and they have an instant connection. They learn from each other, respect each other, complement each other. Each is a perfect friend to the other in a world where very little has gone right and very little has given them cause to be happy.
This is a love story, but it isn't romantic love. Rather, it is a story about the deep and fierce love of friendship—about the family we find in other people and how beyond all measures of human cruelty and across time and distance, that friendship can still ignite a fire that can create change.
Savitha and Poornima meet each other when Poornima's father hires Savitha to weave and help make saris, which are in high demand. In each other they find joy and hope. On the eve of Poornima's wedding—which was extremely difficult to arrange for her father—tragedy befalls the girls and Savitha flees, leaving them both to their own fates—two pieces of one thread unraveling.
The girls each experience brutality, learning that their lives matter little to many around them. But they each keep an internal flame alive, that spark of hope and passion that their friendship ignited and Poornima leaves behind everything to find her friend.
This is not an easy book. It describes very harsh realities in detail like rape, domestic abuse, sex work, immigration issues, human trafficking, and other issues that people around the world—especially women—still face on a daily basis.
But reading about their struggles and how they react and overcome is a form of empowerment. These characters are not ones to take anything sitting down and they constantly move toward their goals.
What I love most about this book is that not only are the women the narrators, each taking a chapter in turn as the narrative progresses, what is central to the narrative is not dating, marriage, or the general search for or loss of men, but rather it is about their empowering friendship.
It seems to me that so often books about women or with women as the main characters are too often centered around men, sometimes so much so that the book ceases to be about the female character and is instead about how she is somehow not complete without some guy. Honestly, this is so boring to me and is the whole reason I avoid what is generally marketed as "women's fiction."
It is so refreshing to read a story that is so real and honest about the struggles of these women—so often they struggle silently with no one to help them except their own mental strength and perseverance. A book about women finding their way—their own way to what they want even though it is not an easy path, and where men are not the target.
Also I so enjoyed really becoming immersed in a culture that is very different from my own, and the author has a way of weaving in the details of that world in such a way that you can understand and see the surroundings even without knowing anything about living in the places in India that are described.
Thank you to Flatiron Books for sending me an advance copy of this book.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.