Koly has grown up in a traditional Indian family, not allowed to go to school or learn to read and write. At thirteen, she is married off to a very sick boy -- a boy whose family mostly wants Koly's dowry money to help them pay for a trip to the Ganges, a holy river that they hope will cure their son. It doesn't and when the boy passes, Koly is a thirteen year old widow. As is traditional, Koly remains with her husbands family, and her mother-in-law treats her cruely. Koly plans to run away once she can formulate a plan, but when her father-in-law dies, her mother-in-law abandons her, leaving her to find work and shelter in a foreign city, with no resources and no one to turn to. Eventually, through the kindness of strangers, Koly finds her own way, but her path is difficult and fraught -- eye-opening to anyone who thinks of thirteen year old girls as protected and innocent. The story is beautiful, well-written, and accessible and a facinating way to learn about how much gender roles differ in other parts of the world.