...covers a litany of grim realities in rural India: poverty, hunger, alcoholism, domestic violence, sexual assault and a caste system, to name a few. This might sound depressing, but Shroff manages to spin all of the above into a radically feel-good story about the murder of no-good husbands by a cast of unsinkable women ... The Bandit Queens' quick pacing stems from Shroff’s reliance on rapid dialogue, which is sometimes clever, sometimes inane, but always succeeds in creating the vibe of village gossip, with its volley of quips and comebacks ... Occasionally, the constant chatter feels misplaced...Overall, however, the characters’ stubborn levity and goofiness work well in a tale that demonstrates how the antidote to bleak circumstances is female friendship.
As the book progresses, might Geeta be able to find her place within her community of women? Might she realize that she has been extremely bad at reading social cues and has suffered as a result? Perhaps, but Shroff’s narrative was never quite successful in engaging this reader enough to really care about the outcome.
Shroff’s debut novel is at once immensely sad—women want Geeta to help them get revenge on rapists and even a husband who threw acid on his wife’s face—but it has laugh-out-loud moments too, as the women learn to stand up to the men in their village, and Geeta forms a relationship with a good man and learns to make friends ... This is a deeply human book, with women surviving and overcoming in their culture while still remaining a part of it.
Acerbic ... Shroff deals sharply with misogyny and abuse, describing the misery inflicted as well as its consequences in unflinching detail, and is equally unsparing in her depictions of mean-girl culture in the village. Readers are in for a razor-stuffed treat.
Some of Shroff’s attempts to insert serious discussions of abuse, misogyny, and class throughout the novel feel awkward, and the story could have used some editing (perhaps one less murder?). Still, if you can lean into the melodramatic slapstick nature of it all...the novel will reward you with occasional witty one-liners, tender moments of deep female friendship, and salient truths ... Readers will appreciate—if not quite be riveted by—this tale of the strength of women in impossible situations.