Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE GOOD GIRLS by Sonia Faleiro


An Ordinary Killing

by Sonia Faleiro

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-8021-5820-8
Publisher: Grove

A modern-day Rashomon that offers multiple views of the widely publicized deaths of two young women in rural India.

In the summer of 2014, two teenagers, whom Faleiro calls Padma and Lalli, left their homes in the countryside of Uttar Pradesh, walking to a nearby orchard. Not long after, they were found hanging from a tree. An autopsy was inconclusive, but it seemed likely that the girls had been raped. Consequently, the village was swept up in a vortex of contending views on religion, caste, gender roles, women’s rights, and other thorny issues, all cogently explored by the author. The principal suspects were members of a low caste. “Their lives had been dismantled,” writes Faleiro, a sympathetic yet unrelenting investigator. “And not one politician, they said, not even one of their own, had come to see them, never mind offer them assistance of any sort….This is what it meant to be poor.” Other issues were at play, including the fact that the girls had dared use their cellphones in public—an act that proved, according to a society where women are untrustworthy, that they were seeking dangerous liaisons. As Faleiro carefully documents, the disappearance of the girls was not extraordinary: “In the year that Padma and Lalli went missing, 12,361 people were kidnapped and abducted in Uttar Pradesh, accounting for 16 per cent of all such crimes in India.” In a recent case, a wealthy businessman had murdered at least 17 people, some of them children, whose disappearances the police had not paid attention to precisely because they were poor. Padma’s and Lalli’s graves suffered a final indignity during a devastating flood, and while their case seems to resist definitive resolution, it shows that, “for the poor, who have always suffered the most, India hasn’t changed all that much.”

A gripping story that brings home the point that India may be “the worst place in the world to be a woman.”