Perhaps it's because she changed her given name from "sunlight" to "shadow." Or perhaps it's because of her unfortunate gender or the darkness of her skin. Or maybe it's because on one ill-fated day, she shattered an image of the goddess Kali. But no matter what the cause, Chhaya is aware of one inescapable truth: she is cursed. As the fourth, forgotten daughter of parents devoted to their boys, Chhaya has always encountered cruelty and neglect - from her parents, her fairer-skinned sisters, and her village. She keeps her pain and anger hidden behind a carefully constructed mask, only revealing her torment in rare moments of self-inflicted injury. She is hopeful that marriage can offer an escape when she is arranged to wed the scholarly Arun, a man she first meets on her wedding day. Chhaya's attempts to understand her new husband reveal a complex creature - a kind but solitary dreamer, a man forced to take a bride for the dowry money. But Chhaya's marital issues are soon overshadowed, as her native India is plunged into World War II, famine, and revolution. Yet the biggest challenge she confronts is within her own mind. As the anguish she has kept hidden reaches a boiling point, Chhaya spirals into a terrifying madness that threatens her own safety, her children, and the bond she's managed to forge with her arranged husband.