Shobha Rao

Cindy Seip

Shobha Rao moved to the United States from India at the age of seven. She is the author of the short story collection An Unrestored Woman. She is the winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, and her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories 2015. Poornima and Savitha, the main characters in Shobha Rao´s debut novel Girls Burn Brighter (Flatiron Books), have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother’s death, Poornima is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. Then Savitha enters their household, and Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly, 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. What follows is a journey into the darkest corners of India’s underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Regardless the obstacles, these two friends never lose the hope that burns within. The New York Times Book Review called it “Engrossing…The pages keep turning, the language is lyrical and lovely, and many phrases call for pause and appreciation…Rao is a capable and confident writer, able to handle a vast and ambitious story line.”