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January 7, 2023

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff ~ a Review

by MK French

Though Geeta's husband walked out on her five years ago, rumors in the village said she killed him. This gives her an amount of freedom and possibly an edge in selling her jewelry, and it's enough for other women in the village to gently (as well as not so gently!) ask for help to get rid of their husbands. Geeta's dangerous reputation is starting to cause trouble, threatening to ruin the life she built for herself.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of women's fiction novel The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
January 2023; Ballantine Books; 978-0593498958
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); women's fiction

I really love some of the phrases used in the book, evident from the beginning, when the loan collective members are arguing. This gives us wonderful visuals as well as character descriptions: Salomi was once "malnourished, thin as paper and just as prone to cut," while community members gossiping have "their lips peeling into sympathetic smiles as sincere as political promises." This grabbed me immediately. From there, we're involved in village life, where the illegal caste system still holds some sway, people look the other way in response to domestic violence, and women remain subservient to men and their whims. Geeta is fascinated by the story of the Robber Queen, who avenged her many violations before her execution, but Geeta is nothing like that Queen. Her presumed widowhood means the women she knows come to her to solve their problems as permanently as they think she did, even though Salomi acknowledges that Geeta isn't the type of person to commit cold-blooded murder.

The women here are all layered, with different reasons for their actions and how they respond to relationships. Geeta thinks she knows how the other people of the village see her, but it isn't so simple. Her initial drive is to earn money to buy a refrigerator, and she holds herself apart from the villagers. She still gets hurt by comments and misunderstandings and can hurt others with her words. Geeta's very real here, and I felt just as stuck by her predicament as she was. 

The final act was such a trip! It was full of surprises that I didn't see coming. The power of friendship is amazing, and I loved the symbolic nature of the finale happening during Diwali, the Festival of Lights. The future is still within the boundaries of the culture, but for the village, it will be safer and full of promise. 

Buy The Bandit Queens at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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