Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Publisher: William Morrow: Harper Collins
Pages: 342
Source: Personal Copy
Category: Multicultural Fiction
Rating: 5/5


Usha was born in a country where daughters may be seen as a burden. Sons help in the fields and stay with the family, daughters on the other hand are married off, and a dowry needs to be in place. If the dowry is too small, the bride may be burned alive. In the case of a poor family, a daughter is not essential, a son is. A daughter is expensive and not cherished. Usha's mother Kavita gave birth in a little hut, and was very excited to see that she has given birth to a beautifully, little daughter. When she showed her husband the baby, he scowled and walks away with the child. Kavita never saw her daughter again. The innocent baby had no chance at life, her little body was disposed of. When Kavita becomes pregnant a second time, she hoped and prayed that she would have a son. She could not possibly go through the same ordeal a second time. After giving birth to a second daughter, she was distraught and refused to have the baby killed. She pleaded with her husband for one night alone with the baby. In the middle of the night; sore, weak and saddened Kavita brought baby Usha to an orphanage a few hours away in Mumbai, hoping she will have a wonderful life. Usha becomes known as Asha when she is adopted by an American couple 10 months later. Asha's parents are a biracial couple, both doctors who met in medical school. Somer, an american is betrayed by her body when she learns that she will never bare her own children. Her husband Krishnan suggests that they adopt from his native country India. As soon as Asha comes into their lives, they fall in love with her and their world feels complete. As Asha begins to grow into a young woman, she seeks to figure out who she is exactly. She has never been to India, she hardly eats India cuisine, she is different from her Indian friends but she doesn't look like her American friends. This is a story of family, and what creates a family. Is it only blood that bonds a family? Life forces you to make choices in life, but that 'what-if's' still linger in our minds. Gowda keeps reader guessing throughout the story.

Overall Impression:

A truly, riveting, amazing read. Some books are written for entertainment purposes, this book transports readers into a world of heartbreak, shock and life's unknowns. This is more than entertainment, this is a book that lingers in your mind long after you've put it down. This story spans Asha's 19 years of life. My heart broke for Kavita, she wanted what was truly best for her daughter, she was shunned by her husbands family for giving birth to two daughters. Her third child was a boy, but all his events were bittersweet for her. She could watch her son grow up, but her daughter who was just a bit older than her son was somewhere. As she watched the children living in the slums, and the daughters prostituting themselves, she kept wondering if her daughter was amongst them. Somer and Krishnan tried to raise their daughter with the best of everything, they tried to keep India away from her, fearing the worst would happen if they brought her back. They wanted to Americanize her, and show her a safer world. Asha on the other hand had her own intentions and convictions. She was on a search to find herself. I loved that all the characters in this story did not play the victim role. All the characters did what they honestly thought was needed. Culturally daughters were not needed, Kavita's husband did what he thought was essential for the family. Kavita gave up her child, but she felt like she had no other choice. Somer and Krishnan dealt with what life handed them and raised their Indian daughter as their own. This is a story of family and endurance. A debut read, that will having you thinking.

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  1. I read the book and went to a lecture by the author last month. She is such a nice person! I really liked reading this book and was very touched by it. You can find my review here:

  2. This sounds really good. I haven't heard too much about this one before, but after your review I definitely am intrigued. Sounds like a heartbreaking, emotional read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Waiting for my sister to send this back to me!

  4. I read and reviewed this one, too. I must admit that I liked Kavita's story a lot more than Somer's (Somer came off to me as rather whiny and ungrateful). BUT Not-So-Bebe Girl Autumn LOVED both stories .. she blew through this one and told me, "Thanks for recommending it" (The girls are always going to my shelves and asking me which one they should read)

  5. This novel is so close to my heart. Ms. Gowda has captured the true essence of India. The emotions are so strong it reaches across boundries.. The heartwrenching incidents mentioned are so true, sometimes goes to make headlines. A definite read for everyone.. A great chicklit!

  6. I loved this book! It is one of the best I have ever read, and the cover is so beautiful, as is the corner are inside. You can find my review here if you are interested.

    BTW, I'm a new follower!

  7. I read this last year and enjoyed it.