Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 319
Shobha Rao’s debut novel explores the idea of female solidarity among young women in India, as both an individual coping mechanism and an impetus for social change. The protagonist, Poornima, must take on numerous adult responsibilities at a young age after her mother dies. Her father has traditional, conservative attitudes toward females, including the idea that marriage is the ideal situation. He had already, only half-jokingly, implied the family would be better off if she drowned. He makes use of her labor in the family weaving business, where she also befriends another young female weaver, Savitha, whom her father hires. The enduring quality of their friendship is an important idea that undergirds the rest of the action. After Poornima’s father rapes Savitha, she must flee the workshop. Poornima vows to stay true to her promise to remain friends.
After her father pushes her into an arranged marriage, Poornima finds herself apparently stuck with an abusive husband, Kishore. She uses every opportunity to learn, whether it is bookkeeping or English, but this cannot compensate for enduring abuse after he scalds her with hot oil. She decides to escape and find her friend. However, the situation grows even more dire as both young women get entangled in a sex-trafficking business, and Savitha must leave India for the United States. Although ostensibly employed legitimately, she cannot escape being trafficked. Improbably, Mohan, one of the men involved, develops feelings for her, which provides temporary respite. Poonrima also travels to America, looking for her friend in Seattle, where she had been living. Her quest is not yet over; however, by then Savitha is gone. As the bonds of friendship are continually frayed, the two women do not forget their youthful promise; it gives them strength and determination to overcome the tremendous challenges they face. While Mohan’s assistance proves instrumental, the author emphasizes that the women are looking out for one another.
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