Take Me to Church
When we first meet Koly, she's getting married—but there's no romance to be found. Instead, her parents decide to marry her off so they don't have another mouth to feed around the house. While any wedding is a big deal, it is a huge deal in this book. Without this marriage, Koly wouldn't be launched into her journey of hardship and self-discovery. Plus it's what makes Koly not only a bride, but a widow, too, at the ripe old age of thirteen.
This Ain't No Picnic
Poor Koly's husband, Hari, has tuberculosis, which is a doozy. In addition to being married off, Koly has to deal with a sick husband right away. And before long, she's a widow with a demanding mother-in-law to boot. Our complication comes to us in the way of Hari's illness and death because Koly's life takes a dramatic turn for the worst. She can't go home because no one wants to marry a widow, and so she's stuck living with Hari's family—who can't really afford to have her around either. Plus, her mother-in-law is majorly harsh. What's a girl to do?
On My Own
Despite all her hardship, nothing is worse for Koly than when Mrs. Mehta ditches her in the big city, leaving her to fend for herself unexpectedly. Poor girl, right? This is a sink or swim moment for Koly: Either she'll figure out how to hack it on her own, or things will take a seriously dark turn for her. For the first time in Koly's life, she can't rely on someone else to feed her or keep her safe, and this development is the highest stakes moment in Koly's story.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
Forced to pay her own way in a foreign city actually ends up being the best thing that ever happens to Koly. She learns how to be independent and do what she wants to do, stretching into her self-sufficiency and relishing her freedom. When she lands a job as a seamstress embroidering clothes and quilts—in a shop where she's appreciated for her skill and creativity—Koly is finally truly happy. For the first time in a long time, she has nothing she wants to flee. Things are really starting to come together for our leading lady.
In the end, Koly figures out that she wants to have a man and her independence. Embroidery makes her happy, but she also can't stop thinking about Raji whenever he's not around. When he builds her a room just for her embroidery, and her boss at the shop agrees to let her drop in with pieces every few weeks, everything comes up roses for Koly. In a nice little twist, her resolution also allows us to think about what's next for her since she's on the brink of another major life change.