Tag Archives: Somaya Gowda

‘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.