Out of the rich culture of India and the brutal drama of the 1947 Partition comes this lush and eloquent debut novel about two women married to the same man.Roop is a young girl whose mother has died and whose father is deep in debt. So she is elated to learn she is to become the second wife of a wealthy Sikh landowner in a union beneficial to both. For Sardaji’s first wife, Satya, has failed to bear him children. Roop believes that she and Satya, still very much in residence, will be friends.
As the novel begins, we’re thrown into a bleak German prison cell with Noor, where she is shackled hand and foot and freezing from the winter’s cold. It is December 1943, the turning point in the war raging in Europe. Noor’s captor, Herr Vogel, allows her onionskin paper on which he directs her to write children’s stories. She does so, but also secretly writes letters to someone she addresses as "ma petite", the spirit of the child she had conceived with Armand Rivkin, a French Jewish musician and the love of her life.
Two fascinating, strong-willed women must deal with the relentless logic forced upon them by survival: Damini, a Hindu midwife, and Anu, who flees an abusive marriage for the sanctuary of the Catholic church. When Sister Anu comes to Damini's home village to open a clinic, their paths cross, and each are certain they are doing what's best for women. What do health, justice, education and equality mean for women when India is marching toward prosperity, growth and becoming a nuclear power?