This page-turning reading group novel follows Asha, a young South Indian woman growing up in Australia, frustrated with her mother’s secretiveness about her past. When the family return to South India, Asha is determined to discover what her mother is hiding – but when her investigation leads her to dark secrets, can she come to terms with the truth?
THE WANTED GIRL
by Rajasree Variyar
Orion UK, Spring 2023
Sydney, 2019. Twenty-five-year-old Asha, who has grown up in Australia, knows very little of her mother’s past in India. As far as her Amma is concerned, the past doesn’t matter, it’s their future that counts. But when Asha’s paternal grandfather is taken ill, her beloved father requests that they return to Madurai to see him, and he wants the whole family to go. Asha is fascinated by what her mother is hiding, and determined to discover the truth about her background: knowing all the while that she is also hiding something from her family.
Madurai, 1992. Janani is a young mother trapped in an unhappy marriage, under pressure from her husband and mother-in-law to give birth to a son. Daughters are expensive to raise and rarely survive birth, with families often taking matters into their own hands to ensure this. But Janani has a dream – a dream of escaping her misery, of finding love, and experiencing happiness. And, above all, of protecting her children no matter what.
As Asha delves deeper into the truth, she starts to suspect what her mother has been running from for all these years. But can she forgive her for everything she has hidden?
Similar to A Thousand Splendid Suns in its sweeping depiction of the plight of women, Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Beekeeper of Aleppo.
Born in Bangalore and raised in Sydney, Australia, Rajasree Variyar has been a Londoner for the last five years, where she juggles writing alongside a career in insurance. She received her MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia in 2020. Her manuscript of THE WANTED GIRL was shortlisted for the 2019 Mo Siewcharran/Hachette UK prize. Her short stories have won second prize in the Shooter Literary Magazine short story competition in 2019 and been long-listed for the Brick Lane Bookshop short story competition in 2020.