Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother's death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life. She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn't feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.
The plot unfolds briskly, alternating between the girls’ points of view. But the story is told in an operatic key that sacrifices plausibility. The bad characters are monstrous. The girls are angelic. The misogyny is unrelenting ... Once Rao learns to dial down the melodrama, she’ll be a formidable writer.