The story she weaves in exquisite language is as tragic and ugly as it is engrossing ... This story is at heart a Southern Gothic—a Southern Hemisphere Gothic—a tale of stymied sexuality and buried secrets ... The events of the night the girls died are related by a cast of dubious witnesses, secretive family members and drunken and abusive police officers, all of whom Faleiro interviews and brings to life on the page ... The Good Girls is a puzzle with a surprise at the end. It’s a riveting, terrible tale, one all too common, but Faleiro’s gorgeous prose makes it bearable ... This feminist document looks straight at men’s twisted obsession with controlling female sexuality.
So father, uncle, and cousin say nothing, nor do they go directly to the home of the boy who was reported to have been with the girls. Faleiro sums it up: 'They didn’t because it wasn’t just the girls’ honor that was at stake, it was the family’s too. And the family had to live in the village.' It is an astute observation in a book that has a good many of them ... When community leaders no longer have sole access to information, they no longer have access to exclusive power. The Good Girls presents a stunning example of just how this confrontation between new technology and old systems of shame and honor takes place ... The mastery of Faleiro’s narrative is in the dexterity with which she presents a deeply complex story, refusing to turn to reductive and singular themes to make her point. The investigation that she presents to readers in The Good Girls is not just the story of an honor crime or a caste killing or a clash between traditional mores and modern technology; it is, instead, all of these things at once ... Literary nonfiction has long been a genre dominated by the white and Western, so Faleiro’s foray into it is particularly venerable. In The Good Girls, she accomplishes the pioneering feat of taking this genre to a new and different place, using its simultaneous capacities for facts and feelings to capture the moment of a community’s transformation.
Faleiro has a talent for ramifying plots and slippery characters—for a narrative that resists easy formulation ... In brisk chapters, some just a few pages long, with the sort of headings one associates with Victorian novels, we glide swiftly, smoothly, only to realize that we’re not approaching a clearing but being led into a darker, more tangled story ... transfixing; it has the pacing and mood of a whodunit, but no clear reveal; Faleiro does not indict the cruelty or malice of any individual, nor any particular system. She indicts something even more common, and in its own way far more pernicious: a culture of indifference that allowed for the neglect of the girls in life and in death.
Ms. Faleiro had set out to write a book about the epidemic of rape that has beset 21st-century India. The issue had first caught the world’s attention in 2012 when a young medical student was abducted in New Delhi, gang-raped in a bus and murdered with indescribable brutality. Ms. Faleiro had intended to focus on that episode, but the more she examined the tragedy of 'Padma Lalli,' whom everyone presumed had also been raped, the more she was sucked into its vortex—to the exclusion of all else ... The Good Girls is a riveting—sometimes astonishing—work of forensic journalism that chronicles the girls’ lives as well as the circumstances of their death. It highlights the values that prevail in rural north India, particularly the suffocating codes of honor that dictate what women shouldn’t do. In a searing conclusion, Ms. Faleiro compares the Delhi bus rape with the tale of the two hanged girls. The first showed how dangerous public places were for women. The second 'revealed something more terrible still—that an Indian woman’s first challenge was surviving her own home.'
... gripping ... compelling ... Taut with dramatic tension, The Good Girls vividly captures the sights, sounds, smells, preoccupations and oppressiveness of the village ... The book paints a damning picture of non-existent police investigative capacity...also effectively captures the circus-like atmosphere that typically follows heinous crimes in India, where television media trials and political grandstanding replace the painstaking police work required to prepare for a criminal trial.
... [a] compulsively readable, highly impressive work ... Faleiro carefully reconstructs the investigation into the girls' deaths in all its dysfunctional detail ... While Faleiro has used extensive interviews to portray Padma and Lalli as more than the symbols they became--unearthing their hopes, dreams and familial conflicts in almost novelistic detail--the book is equally valuable as a document of the many complicated, interwoven issues that face India. The truth behind what happened to Padma and Lalli is more banal than it might at first seem, but no less horrific in its implications. The Good Girls is excellent, deeply felt nonfiction.
Despite fully knowing exactly how the case played out, Sonia Faleiro’s excellent narrative-reportage unfolds like a crime thriller. It is still a riveting read that completely engages the reader while saddening him/her deeply about the condition of young women in India. Faleiro relentlessly exposes the deep-rooted patriarchy of the Indian system ... No person or institution is spared from Faleiro’s sharp scrutiny. She examines the fumbling investigations by the police, the inept post-mortem examination of the girls’ bodies by the inexperienced doctor who threw up the erroneous report of them being raped and later, backtracked ... As insightful and feminist as it is deeply sympathetic, the book encourages conversations about freedom, misogyny and violence and about women being the sacrificial lambs at the altar of honour, morality and tradition.
... a remarkable feat of reporting: What [Faleiro] finds reveals as much about the failings of India’s law enforcement, media and politics as it does about the girls’ deaths ... Faleiro’s prose is restrained, but she allows the occasional colorful simile ... Faleiro lets the suspense build as she carefully uncovers the villagers’ competing motives. Gradually, it becomes clear that in Katra, ultimately one thing is more binding than police codes, medical codes or penal codes: a retrograde but resilient code of honor. This is the force, above all others, that stunted the girls’ lives and hastened their deaths.
Faleiro’s meticulous reconstruction moves far beyond the Katra events, dovetailing countless gruesome crimes, disclosing shocking data, divulging pervasive incompetence, and exposing widespread corruption. These contextual extras, while unarguably urgent, prove excessive, eventually overwhelming the girls’ tragedy.
... shocking, mesmerising ... Faleiro uses the structures of a true crime narrative. The need in the reader to understand these painfully premature deaths and make sense of the world, means that the real objective of The Good Girls – to turn and face the factual horror of inequality – is skilfully masked ... Faleiro is a judicious writer...the prose in The Good Girls is full of precise intention. Facts are presented without the electric burn of outrage ... The author will not hold your hand as you navigate this mystery; instead you are encouraged to solve it yourself ... a beautifully calibrated book, full of suspense to the final pages, urging us to walk into that night and listen.
At the beating heart of The Good Girls is an exploration of shame. On the subcontinent, and sometimes off of it, shame is a potent force used to subjugate people to a social order ... it is important to understand the epigraph and the Laws of Manu as prime sources of misogyny, discrimination, and honor codes that are implemented in different ways, and thus to appreciate how vital a work of reportage and literature The Good Girls is ... You might think from all I’ve said that this book is a dry text. It’s not. While Faleiro lays out the necessary facts to portray the poverty in Uttar Pradesh, which is the murder capital of India, there’s also a sensory effect in how she generates its atmosphere on every page ... the book is laced throughout with memorable, concrete observations that exceed the purely descriptive or pictorial into the realm of the subtly symbolic and metaphoric ... Although it is narratively more complicated in its turns and events, The Good Girls is of a piece with Faleiro’s stunning nonfiction ... a vital, courageous, rigorous, nuanced and deeply considered report of true crime with global implications for women.
[A] thoughtful, careful narrative of these events and an examination of the many issues influencing this tangled case. Faleiro reconstructs scenes using multiple thorough interviews with the people who were present, and she takes care to never insert herself into her retelling. Through her, however, the reader comes to know the people involved ... Even as corruption and hope vie with one another politically and poverty touches everything, The Good Girls never loses sight of the human heart of its story. It brings us close to these people and their problems and heartaches and, in so doing, makes us examine our own.
In this powerful account, Faleiro tells the tragic story of two cousins, 16-year-old Padma Shakya and 14-year-old Lalli Shakya, who grew up in a village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. In incisive prose, Faleiro, who offers no opinion on what actually happened, examines India’s family honor system and the grueling lives of lower caste women. True crime buffs will be fascinated.
A modern-day Rashomon that offers multiple views of the widely publicized deaths of two young women in rural India.A gripping story that brings home the point that India may be 'the worst place in the world to be a woman.'