The Good Girlsby Sonia Faleiro
By the award-winning writer of Beautiful Thing, a masterly inquest into how the mysterious deaths of two teenage girls shone a light into the darkest corners of a nation
The girls’ names were Padma and Lalli, but they were so inseparable that people in the village called them Padma Lalli. Sixteen-year-old Padma sparked and burned. Fourteen-year-old Lalli was an incorrigible romantic.
They grew up in Katra Sadatganj, an eye-blink of a village in western Uttar Pradesh crammed into less than one square mile of land. It was out in the fields, in the middle of mango season, that the rumors started.
Then one night in the summer of 2014 the girls went missing; and hours later they were found hanging in the orchard. Who they were, and what had happened to them, was already less important than what their disappearance meant to the people left behind.
In the ensuing months, the investigation into their deaths would implode everything that their small community held to be true, and instigate a national conversation about sex and violence. Slipping deftly behind political maneuvering, caste systems and codes of honor in a village in northern India, The Good Girls returns to the scene of their short lives and shameful deaths, and dares to ask: what is the human cost of shame?
“The Good Girls is transfixing; it has the pacing and mood of a whodunit, but no clear reveal; Faleiro does not indict the cruelty or malice of any individual, nor any particular system. She indicts something even more common, and in its own way far more pernicious: a culture of indifference that allowed for the neglect of the girls in life and in death.”—Parul Sehgal, New York Times
“A riveting—sometimes astonishing—work of forensic journalism that chronicles the girls’ lives as well as the circumstances of their death.”—Wall Street Journal
“A gripping, real-life murder mystery… Taut with dramatic tension, The Good Girls vividly captures the sights, sounds, smells, preoccupations and oppressiveness of the village… [and] effectively captures the circus-like atmosphere that typically follows heinous crimes in India… Faleiro writes sensitively about her subjects’ actions and motivations.” —Financial Times
“[A] compulsively readable, highly impressive work of reportage… The Good Girls is excellent, deeply felt nonfiction.”—Shelf Awareness
“A modern-day Rashomon that offers multiple views of the widely publicized deaths of two young women in rural India… A gripping story.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Powerful account… In incisive prose, Faleiro… examines India’s family honor system and the grueling lives of lower caste women. True crime buffs will be fascinated.”—Publishers Weekly
“In this true story of the mysterious death of two girls, Sonia Faleiro confronts us with what it means to be young, poor, powerless and most importantly, female, in much of today’s India. Despite its calm, measured tone, or more likely, because of it, The Good Girls left me shattered.”—Abhijit Banerjee, Nobel Prize winner
“The Good Girls is an insightful work of reportage that highlights how gender intersects with class and caste in Indian society. It’s a page-turner, a feminist text, and an essential read that is deeply empathetic toward its two main subjects who no longer have a voice.”—Deepa Anappara
“An extraordinary book studded with insights into media, justice, corruption, and the rules governing women’s lives. Padma and Lalli — harvesting mint, enchanted by a play, seeking freedom, wishing to be something — will stay powerfully with me.”—Megha Majumdar
“Chilling and devastating, The Good Girls is narrative reportage at its very best.”—Fatima Bhutto
“A compulsively readable whodunit, as fast-moving as a mystery novel, and at a whole deeper level offers profound observations about caste and sexuality in rural India.”—Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy and Eat the Buddha