‘Secret Daughter’, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Here is a story to be enjoyed. Though not exceptionally well written or nuanced, it is very readable and compelling. It’s about mothers, and moves back and forth between Indian and American cultures.  It’s alot about who we are and how we find our roots. It’s about love and loss and family. There is the poignancy of Kavita, a poor mother in India, giving her girl child up for adoption because there is simply no other option. And Somer, an infertile mother who adopts a child from another culture and struggles to raise Asha as her own. It deals with the isolation of culture shock, the loss of identity in immigration,  and the mystery of family and how a sense of belonging develops in us.

There is a lot about India in this novel: descriptions of food, how to wrap a sari, Mumbai slums, eyebrow threading, the art of henna, elaborate family gatherings and weddings. In fact the descriptions of India make America seem bland indeed. Pass the hot sauce. But it gets deeper than that. There are  Two Indias: for rich and poor, and for men and women. “Mother India does not love all her children equally, it seems”. (p. 229)

This book grew on me. The characters could have had more depth, especially the men, and at times it seemed predictable and stereotypical. But when the story didn’t take the trite turns that I thought it would, I was refreshed. This would be a great selection for a book club. The story keeps moving while you stay rooted firmly in your easy chair, and later there are interesting things to talk about.

3 responses to “‘Secret Daughter’, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

  1. Patricia Ootjers

    Joanne, my oldest daughter read this book with her book club. She recommended it to me saying that she thought it was an interesting book about mothers and there love for their daughter(s). Her comment was also that it wasn’t a difficult book to read and that she couldn’t put it down till she had finished it.

  2. Good summary, Joanne. The writing is a bit uneven, but the author did something right because like you, the deeper I got into it, the more I wanted to know what would happen to the characters. She did manage to make me care. Sophie

  3. You are a lot kinder to this author than I feel towards this story. There is nothing in this book about India I didn’t get exposed to in an average toronto suburb. And it all ends way too pretty to shed any light on the complexities of adoption, multicultural marriages and immigration. A nice read at times and a great script for a cheap Disney movie!

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