Two friends and talented weavers navigate poverty, abuse, and the relentless pressure to find suitable husbands in contemporary South India.
In Indravalli, a village that sits along the banks of the Krishna River, 16-year-old Poornima, which means full moon in Telugu, and 17-year-old Savitha, which means sun, cross paths when Poornima’s father hires Savitha to help him meet the demand for new cotton saris. Savitha is industrious at the spinning wheel, or charkha, and weaving with Poornima is respite from searching garbage dumps for metal and plastic to sell to support her family. Mourning the recent death of her mother from cancer, Poornima finds in Savitha a mother figure, a gifted storyteller, and, as marriage looms, a confidante for her to express her fears that the man she’s been arranged to marry is not what he seems. Though 12-hour days of weaving bind Poornima and Savitha together, a horrific crime tears them apart. Out in the world alone, with no knowledge of each other’s whereabouts, they must find a way to maneuver the cruelties lobbed at women with no education and little money in both India and the United States. In this, her debut novel, Rao (An Unrestored Woman, 2016) has written an enchanting tale that alternates between Poornima's and Savitha’s points of view. The book’s earlier quiet and contemplative moments give way to the girls’ intricately devised plans to escape their brutal circumstances, and an indefatigable courage fuels their dreams for a reunion. The resplendent prose captures the nuances and intensity of two best friends on the brink of an uncertain and precarious adulthood. “She made even the smallest of life seem grand, and for Poornima, who had always ached for something more…watching Savitha, watching her delight, was like cultivating her own.”
An incisive study of a friendship’s unbreakable bond.