Cover Image: The Bandit Queens

The Bandit Queens

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Member Reviews

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for this ARC.

The Bandit Queens might be the most satisfying book I have read in years. Reading about Greeta, her trials, and her developing sisterhood community was everything. Parini Shroff combined serious female centric trials with a dollop of humor. The moments of humor kept the horrible situations the women survived from being too overwhelming. I was sad to finish the story because I could read about this friend group going through everyday life for another hundred pages easily. The Bandit Queens get an enthusiastic 5/5 stars. I only wish I could rate it higher.
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I'm not going to lie - I picked this book up solely based on the cover. I had zero idea what it would be about, but I knew I had to read it! 

This was a fantastic read! Ms. Shroff tackles serious topics relating to the women in a small Indian village - abuse, patriarchy, and ostracization - but the dark humor throughout keeps the book from getting too heavy.

All the women are strong characters, and their journey is central to the story. Geeta is so used to being on her own and fending for herself, but as the pages turn she starts to realize she may not be as alone as she thinks.

One of my favorite quotes from the book actually comes from the acknowledgements: "The unfortunate status quo is that it is tough for women everywhere, and female friendships are what will carry us through the darkness and absurdity of life."

Don't miss The Bandit Queens!
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I loved this one. Geeta’s husband left five years ago, earning Geeta the reputation of being a witch, an evil woman who made her husband disappear. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t kill her husband. The rumor follows her around. Even the kids in the village believe it. While she doesn’t love the rumors it at least allows her the opportunity to live a life of freedom and as a bonus no one messes with her. 
However, this doesn’t stop the women in the village for asking her to help them get rid of their husbands. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one but this was so entertaining and the audio is great.  There is a lot humor for such a dark topic. I could totally see this as a movie.

Thank you @prhaudio and @netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I really enjoyed this book. There was a ton of cultural context, which helped draw me in and kept my interest with local words and customs. While there are some darker parts of this book (tw: domestic violence, rape, pedophilia, animal abuse), I thought the story was interesting and different from other stories I’ve read. This book expanded my vocabulary, as I had to look up many words that were new to me. Interrupted the flow a little,  but ereaders make it easier. The ending was a bit dramatic, but I ultimately liked the building tension. I both liked and cared about the characters, who come off as multi-dimensional, and I want to root for all of them to have a better life! Down with the patriarchy!!
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Bandit Queens was a hilarious ride from start to finish as Geeta navigated rekindled female friendships in the setting of murder and through explorations of casteism, sexism, and poverty. I loved the larger than life characters that jumped off the page and the humor interspersed throughout. 

The overarching themes of female empowerment and friendship were strong and extremely heavy topics stayed approachable through the lens of humor and straightforward attitudes. I also learned some new words - a lot of them English ones! This was a good one to read on kindle so I could look up some unfamiliar definitions. Lots of descriptive imagery. 

My only complaint is that the page count was a little high for the content and I could have used a little more concentration with the action. This does what I wish Finlay Donovan could have done with intersectionality, history, and love. Just so well rounded and overall I really enjoyed it! Definitely recommend.
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The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff is a female-centric novel set in rural India. It revolves around women bonding together to fight against the inequities they face in their daily lives in a small village.  The feel-good revenge story posits a group of women who seek to get rid of their no-good husbands while building a better life for themselves and their children.  The main character, Geeta, inadvertently becomes a “murder consultant”, inspiring the women to take control of their lives, much like the historical Bandit Queen of folklore did. 

While the pacing is slow, that gives the reader time to invest in the characters and keep them engaged.  You’ll find yourself cheering as the women take on their oppressors and build a community of sisterhood.
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Fantastic! I loved this feisty, sassy, funny story of female friendship. Great setting, refreshing prose.

If you loved Finlay Donovan is Killing It, you'll love this one.
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This is a story that will stay with you long after you finish. I enjoyed the dark humor and the atmospheric writing.  
Many thanks to Random House and to NetGalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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The book was hard to get into at first and there was some language that I had to look up which took me out of the story or gloss over which limited my understanding, the Indian setting is unfamiliar to me so that took a while to get into. But the book was funny and also said something about culture, not just in India. I loved the way the women bickered and talked to each other. Lots of swearing which is a bonus for me. I was invested in the story and the characters and once I got into it there were time when I felt like I was there.
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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book as it was sent to me by the publisher in an email and wow! I’m so glad they did! This book was so good! I wasn’t sure what the vibe would be of this book, but after reading it, it was so multi-layered and really interesting. Geeta's husband left and everyone thinks she murdered him and from there, the story continues and gets more intense. The book is funny, sweet, empowering, serious, and everything inbetween! I really enjoyed it and would recommend to others!
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Geeta is the main character whose husband five years ago disappeared and the village thinks she murdered him. The women in her micro loan group feel that since Geeta killed her husband, she can help kill one or two of theirs as they are drunkards or abusers.
Another theme through this novel is the Bandit Queen, Phoolan Mallah story. What she did and what she would do with the situation these women found themselves in.
Pahini Shroff writes a realistic fiction tale of current India. If one is unfamiliar with their customs, it becomes a learning story. But, the best part, is how Geeta, Farah, Saloni, Prizy, Preity murdered two of their husbands.
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“Men like him would always look at her and see the things they were glad they weren't: weak, small, timid, powerless. Let them. She'd expended so much energy vying for a broken seat at an uneven table.”

I started 2023 with a LOT of Vigilante women and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Bandit Queens has been on my radar since the millisecond that I saw that cover. This book definitely had kills and thrills and a LOT of husbands who just weren’t cutting it and so got cut instead. 

What I Liked:

* I loved seeing Geeta come into her own. She realizes over the course of the novel that she wasn’t necessarily ostracized but was ostracizing herself due to her low self worth. I LOVED seeing her gain confidence and THRIVE
* Watching women who were overlooked take back their power
* Loved seeing a love story that was centered more around friends finding each other again than romantic love
* Loved Loved LOVED learning about the actual real life Bandit Queen Phoolan Devi. WHAT a BADASS
* Bandit, the dog because let’s be real he was the star of the show
* Loved how much depth there was to this novel that I wasn’t expecting. 

What I didn’t like
* It slowed down a bit in certain spots and felt a bit clunky. This could have been smoothed out after the ARC copy but there were just certain points that dragged.
* There were quite a few characters in this book and I lost track at times and had to remind myself who was who, who belonged to who and who killed who.

Overall, there were way more things I enjoyed about this novel than I disliked and all in all really enjoyed Geeta and her crew of misfit women.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC this was a 3 star read for me.

Happy Reading!
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This was such an entertaining, unique book. I loved the premise, the dark humor, the quirky characters, the female friendship and the social commentary throughout. It was truly a great feminist story told in a darkly funny way.

My only complaint was that the writing sometimes felt a little clunky to me and it made it take a while for me to get through this book. I like a book that goes down easily, writing-wise and I found myself having to force myself to focus quite a bit. That could just be me though and my headspace (especially as I read this around the holidays), so I’d definitely still recommend this book!
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Geeta's abusive husband disappeared from their village over five years ago and in that time she's gained quite the reputation. When women start turning to her for help to get out of their own abusive marriages, she's put in a difficult situation: does she perpetuate the rumor that she murdered her husband by helping others, or does she admit the truth? This novel is dark and funny and very much about women finding their own freedom in a patriarchal society that does all it can to keep them confined to their homes. Part murder mystery, part drama, part comedy, this book left me pondering it for days after I finished reading.
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Geeta’s life is, paradoxically, easier now that her abusive husband is gone. I say paradoxically because, first, everyone in her village in rural India believes that the best life for a woman is as a wife and mother and, second, everyone thinks Geeta killed Ramesh. On the one hand, no more abuse and the pleasure of “eating her own salt”—earning a living and providing for herself. On the other, she does get a lot of side-eye and people calling her a witch. Geeta puts up with a lot in Parini Shroff’s blackly funny novel, The Bandit Queens, especially once the other women in her microloan group come to her for help getting rid of their own awful husbands.

The first woman who comes to Geeta is Farah, whose husband drinks away the family’s money and worse. Farah begs Geeta to help her kill off Samir and, reluctantly, Geeta agrees: but only to give Farah ideas. Farah has to do the deed herself. Even though Geeta has a reputation as a murderer, she is regularly horrified at her much more unethical and criminal acquaintances. The farce that follows as Farah and Geeta plot to murder Samir sets the tone for the rest of The Bandit Queens. I laughed out loud more than once as Geeta bickers with Farah, Solani, Preity, and Priya as the scheming thickens around her.

The comedy is tempered with a lot of surprisingly moving conversations Geeta has with Solani, Farah, and the others. Solani and Geeta used to be the best of friends until Ramesh came between them. It’s only now, when things are at their most chaotic, that Geeta and Solani finally have time to talk and realize how much they’ve wronged each other by letting a man sow mistrust between them. I was also touched by Geeta’s growing relationship with single dad, Karem. If only she can get through a few murders, she might be able to have love and friendship at last.

Some readers may shy away from the violence and references to violence in The Bandit Queens, but I had a surprising among of fun reading this book. I hope Shroff puts out another book soon!
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This blew up in my book circles and I am so glad I was able to get a copy of this. 

I don't know how this book manages to hit the serious topics of addiction, molestation, DV, castes, and corruption all while making me crack up. I'm not super familiar with south asian culture but I feel like this was such a good look. 

Geeta was such a loveable main character. I loved seeing her find independence and freedom. The themes of making a difference in a small way was written so well. The title was apparently a nod to a real woman, Phoolan Devi and I'm going to be looking more into her story!

I am absolutely going to be following this author. She did such an amazing job of balancing these serious topics with humor.
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After Geeta's no-good husband disappeared many people in her small Indian village believed that she had killed him. As a result, she was branded a witch by the community. A title that led everyone to keep her at bay due to superstitions and their societal structure. After 2 years of this, Geeta has become accustomed to being alone and independent. She has a thriving business, thanks to the funding from her women's microloan group, and comfortable life. When one of the girls from her group requests her assistance with "removing her nose ring" aka becoming a widow; Geeta is faced with some difficult decisions that could change her life as she knows it. 

I loved this book so much! It's dark, suspenseful, and hilarious. The characters are very well developed and engaging. And even though the story is set in India, Parini Shroff does an excellent job bridging the cultural divide and gives enough understanding of India's cultural and societal norms to thoroughly enjoy the story.
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This review will be posted on January 23, 2023 to:

I had a hard time clicking with the first third of this novel. It might have been the pacing. I considered DNFing, but a tiny voice whispered not to. I'm so glad I didn't because *everything* changed for me at 36.8%. This debut novel was a marvel. It was rich with unforgettable characters and a wicked dark sense of humor. From bonobos to barbs, you *will* fall in love with Geeta and her circle of friends. Each woman was unique and remarkable. The arc of Geeta and Saloni's relationship was particularly beautiful. I loved them, their friendship, and how it gave Geeta courage. #TheBanditQueens Rating: 😊 / really liked it
This book was published on January 3, 2023. Thank you #BallantineBooks for providing me this digital ARC via @NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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So fun, but in a setting I don't usually read - I enjoyed it!

Geeta has been assumed a widow for a while, so her name is 'mixed with dirt.' She has removed her nose ring, and the children all run from her, describing her as a monster known as a churel. Instead of being offended by the ostracism, Geeta decided she likes herself, and her solitary time. She makes her jewelry and minds her own business, except for the womens' loan group she belongs too. 

Unfortunately, the women begin to rely on her for more and more - making up their missing payments that their drunk husbands spend, to start with. Soon, some group members figure if she already killed her own husband, maybe she can kill theirs too?

A series of humorous misunderstandings and attempts at fulfilling any obligations and continuing an independent life ensue. And the more that Geeta interacts with the group members outside of their regular scheduled meetings, the more she realizes maybe her loneliness has been her own as much as being shunned by those in her community. It turns out many of her assumptions about the community and it's members in recent years may have been very wrong. 

I really liked the relationships and their evolutions in this story. Geeta and her lifelong friend got to know each other all over again, and Geeta became a part of her community once again. I gave this story 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to those who enjoy stories about communities different from their own (unless the reader is in a small village in India...), and stories with independent female characters.
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The author sums up the book perfectly in the afterword: I found humor, albeit dark humor, creeping into the pages. While I sought to respectfully and accurately address the scourges of domestic abuse, gender/religious/caste ostracization, and patriarchy, I believed humor could act as a bolster and prevent the book from collapsing under the weight of these timely and troubling topics. What made such gallows humor possible, I think, was the resilience of women and the power of sisterhood.

I think the humor worked perfectly, The sisterhood was beautiful and not cloying, and the heavy topics were handled uniquely. Highly recommend!
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