Secret Daughter, Shilpi Somaya Gowda

| 5 September , 2010 | Reply

Kristy McCormick

The Secret Daughter is the first novel from writer Shilpi Somaya Gowda. It is the story of two families – one American, one Indian – whose stories are told in tandem throughout the novel. These stories are told from differing perspectives throughout, all of them neatly woven together more tightly as the novel progresses, bringing you closer and closer to the point where it is inevitable the two stories intersect. It is a fabulous story where cultures collide, loyalties are torn and love conquers all at the end of the day.

Kavita and her husband Jasu long for a baby. In a remote Indian village she gives birth to a baby girl – only to have to give her up in order to save her life. In a culture that favours sons, this is the only way and Kavita is forced to lie to her husband in order to deliver the baby to safety. Kavita mourns the loss of her daughter for the rest of her life, even after the birth of her cherished son. Unbeknownst to her it haunts her husband also, and he is shattered by decisions he was forced to make to uphold tradition and maintain respect in the eyes of his family.

On the other side of the world Somer and Krishnan, both doctors living in America, are devastated to learn they will never have a child of their own. With support from Krishnan\’s Indian family they travel to Mumbai to adopt a baby girl – a girl with gold flecked eyes with whom they fall in love at first glance. They take their new daughter, Asha, home to America for what they believe will be a better life.

From the slums of Mumbai to the affluent middle class American suburbs, the stories of Kavita, Somer and Asha are told in such a way that you do not want to stop reading. You can absolutely sense where the story is headed, as the lives of these three are intertwined in a way that none of them are yet aware of. Asha longs to know more about her Indian heritage. Feeling as though she doesn\’t know where she fits in, she shuns her mothers attempts to create a close relationship. Somer, in comparison, is unable to understand Asha\’s longing to visit and experience her Indian culture  – but does not acknowledge to herself, let alone her daughter, that she is secretly afraid of losing Asha to India. And Kavita, who has survived so many hardships, lives her life hoping that one day she will know the truth of what happened to her secret daughter.

This is a wonderfully written story and I thoroughly enjoyed every page. The descriptions of life in India in particular are vivid and provide the reader with an understanding of what life in India is like – from the slums where people live in squalor, to the large flats filled with affluent families that can afford servants and fresh food. But, ultimately, it is a story about family and the story of a child who means so much to two women that she keeps love and hope alive for both of them.

Available now: HarperCollins RRP$32.99


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