The Bandit Queens

Ballantine. Jan. 2023. 352p. ISBN 9780593498958. $28. F
DEBUT In her poor Indian village, Geeta has joined a micro-loan group to help fund her business making wedding jewelry. She needs money since her husband, Ramesh, left her five years ago, making Geeta an outsider in her rural community. Most of the villagers, including Farah, one of the women in her micro-loan group, believe that Geeta killed Ramesh. Because Geeta has this rumored “experience” killing men, Farah asks Geeta to murder her abusive husband. Then Priety asks Geeta to do the same to her husband, and the requests keep rolling in. As Geeta did not actually murder Ramesh, this is all very much outside of her comfort zone, but she takes strength from the story of the Bandit Queen, a historical figure who avenged herself against the men who hurt her. Shroff’s debut novel is at once immensely sad—women want Geeta to help them get revenge on rapists and even a husband who threw acid on his wife’s face—but it has laugh-out-loud moments too, as the women learn to stand up to the men in their village, and Geeta forms a relationship with a good man and learns to make friends.
VERDICT This is a deeply human book, with women surviving and overcoming in their culture while still remaining a part of it. Similar in feel to Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.
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