Book Review: Secret Daughter – Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Title: Secret Daughter: A Novel
Author: Shilpi Somaya-Gowda
ISBN: 9780061922312
Pages: 352
Release Date: March 9, 2010
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

When she gives birth to a daughter in a small village in India, Kavita is fearful for the fate of her baby.  Her husband Jasu has made it clear that they need a son and cannot afford to raise a little girl.  Desperate to protect her daughter from a cruel fate, she secretly takes her to Mumbai and leaves her at an orphanage, hoping that she may one day have a good life.

In San Diego, American doctor Somer is devastated by her inability to have children.  She agrees to consider adoption from her husband Krishnan’s home country of India, and they end up bringing a beautiful one-year old girl into their family.  As their daughter, Asha, grows, she begins to question her Indian heritage and origins, wanting to know more about the place and people she came from.

Review:

I cannot put into words how much I loved Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s Secret Daughter.  Though I will try in this review, I assure you that my words will not do justice to this amazing piece of literature.  Gowda writes with such grace and wisdom, it is impossible to believe that this is her debut novel.  Her prose is lyrical and beautiful, yet clear and precise.  Her writing makes the book easy to read and keeps the heavy subjects discussed within its pages from being a weight on the reader.

Gowda also does an excellent job making each and every major character in this novel a sympathetic one.  Somer, Krishnan, Asha, Jasu, Kavita – all these people want different things.  Sometimes, the desires of one character clash with the needs of another, yet Gowda manages to write it such that the reader can sympathize with both characters at the same time.  When Somer went to India and felt frustrated by the cultural differences, I understood her pain at the same time I felt Krishnan’s anger that she wasn’t trying hard enough.  It was an amazing feat, and it happens again and again over the course of Secret Daughter

The discussion of the culture clash between America and India was incredibly well done.  Gowda focuses on how alien India can be for Americans, or even for Indians who aren’t used to the pace and style of life.  She also beautifully describes the feelings of any person of Indian heritage learning about their home country.  She put thoughts onto paper that I would never even have known how to put into words.  Gowda described exactly what was in my heart – the feeling that India is a country of opposites, a dichotomy.  The pride one can feel in being from a country of such beauty with such richness of culture, coupled with the shame that, statistically, daughters are not valued as much as sons.  When Asha learns about this fact for the first time in the novel, Gowda’s words brought tears to my eyes, it was so beautifully expressed:

“‘We are a minority in this country.  You know the birth rates are all bungled up in India, don’t you?  We have something like nine hundred fifty girls born for every one thousand boys.’  Meena stares straight ahead.  ‘Mother India does not love all her children equally, it seems.’” – Page 229

I loved all the stories discussed in this novel, but it was Asha’s search for a sense of identity that spoke to me the most.  She had no sense of belonging at the beginning of the novel.  Though she knew her parents loved her, she needed more than that to find her place in the world.  I loved the realizations that she came to as the novel progressed – where her identity really was, what really mattered, and what the power of a mother’s love can do.

This review is already so long, yet there is so much more I can say.  But I’ll end it with this:  read this book.  It’s a beautiful portrait of family, culture, and the importance of understanding your heritage, while also being a testament to the love of all our mothers.  It doesn’t matter what culture or background you are – Gowda’s incredible writing and compelling story will pull you in and not let you go until the last pages of the novel are turned.  I can’t say enough good things about Secret Daughter and only hope that you will love it as much as I did.

Comments

  1. excellent review–this one has caught my eye since I read the first review. I do have it so I need to schedule the time. thanks for sharing your thoughts; glad u loved it!

  2. excellent review–this one has caught my eye since I read the first review. I do have it so I need to schedule the time. thanks for sharing your thoughts; glad u loved it!

  3. Wow! Like Diane (comment above me) I’ve seen this title around but your review has added it to my must read list. Thanks 🙂

  4. Wow! Like Diane (comment above me) I’ve seen this title around but your review has added it to my must read list. Thanks 🙂

  5. Your review is the first I’ve seen of this and I immediately added it to my Buy These Books list! Thank you!

  6. Your review is the first I’ve seen of this and I immediately added it to my Buy These Books list! Thank you!

  7. I recently read ravings of this book in so many blogs that I have to read this too! Good review!

  8. I recently read ravings of this book in so many blogs that I have to read this too! Good review!

  9. I think you did it justice. Can’t wait to read it.

  10. I think you did it justice. Can’t wait to read it.

  11. This is on my shelf! I am doing this “month of nonfiction” in April (self-imposed), and I was hoping to get to it in March, but didn’t.

    I can’t read your review, but I just saw your 5 of 5 rating, so now I can’t wait to read it in early May.

  12. This is on my shelf! I am doing this “month of nonfiction” in April (self-imposed), and I was hoping to get to it in March, but didn’t.

    I can’t read your review, but I just saw your 5 of 5 rating, so now I can’t wait to read it in early May.

  13. I got so excited when I saw your review, because I thought I had this book – it turns out I have Secret Son. I’ll be adding this one to my wish list.

  14. I got so excited when I saw your review, because I thought I had this book – it turns out I have Secret Son. I’ll be adding this one to my wish list.

  15. Thanks for the review. I will be picking this one up on my next bookstore run.

  16. Thanks for the review. I will be picking this one up on my next bookstore run.

  17. I’ll keep this book in mind. It’s obvious how much you enjoyed it, and it does sound really good.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  18. I’ll keep this book in mind. It’s obvious how much you enjoyed it, and it does sound really good.

    –Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

  19. Wow, you have me all a-tingle! I can’t really argue with that kinda review. This an Angelology are now on my “must reads”!!!

  20. Wow, you have me all a-tingle! I can’t really argue with that kinda review. This an Angelology are now on my “must reads”!!!

  21. Excellent and beautiful review! I am so interested in this book and really want to get a chance to read it. The synopsis really intrigues me and I think I would probably love it. I am glad you had such a good experience with it!

  22. Excellent and beautiful review! I am so interested in this book and really want to get a chance to read it. The synopsis really intrigues me and I think I would probably love it. I am glad you had such a good experience with it!

  23. Wow, a 5 rating! I’ve been going back and forth on whether to pick this book up or not. It looks like I might have to after that terrific review of it.

  24. Wow, a 5 rating! I’ve been going back and forth on whether to pick this book up or not. It looks like I might have to after that terrific review of it.

  25. When I saw you had given this a 5, I was definitely interested in seeking it out. I loved your review of this book and it makes me want to read it even more. Thanks for heads up on this unknown-to-me author. Cheers!

  26. When I saw you had given this a 5, I was definitely interested in seeking it out. I loved your review of this book and it makes me want to read it even more. Thanks for heads up on this unknown-to-me author. Cheers!

  27. Wow Swapna, it sounds excellent! I hope I get a chance to read it at some point.

  28. Wow Swapna, it sounds excellent! I hope I get a chance to read it at some point.

  29. Great! Anytime a blogger talks a book up this much I know it’s worth it! It’s on my list now!

  30. Great! Anytime a blogger talks a book up this much I know it’s worth it! It’s on my list now!

  31. Another book by an Indian writer thatn can’t be missed. I’m so enjoying reading about the region.

  32. Another book by an Indian writer thatn can’t be missed. I’m so enjoying reading about the region.

  33. ok! I will pick it up! 🙂

  34. ok! I will pick it up! 🙂

  35. Your review makes this book sound so wonderful that I can’t wait to read it myself. Thank you for the review.

  36. Your review makes this book sound so wonderful that I can’t wait to read it myself. Thank you for the review.

  37. You’ve caught my eye with this review and it sound great. I’ll be adding it to my TBR!

  38. You’ve caught my eye with this review and it sound great. I’ll be adding it to my TBR!

  39. This is at the top of my list when I catch up a little on some review copies.

  40. This is at the top of my list when I catch up a little on some review copies.

  41. I also LOVED this book. I totally agree with your 5 star rating. 🙂

  42. I also LOVED this book. I totally agree with your 5 star rating. 🙂

  43. The cover is very appealing to me, it looks to be from the same photo shoot as the one used for Stevie Nicks Bombay Sapphires and was the reason I was drawn to that album too.

    I love Indian film but haven’t read much fiction so it’s good to be able to read someone else’s thought on a particular book – discovering one for yourself is difficult.

  44. The cover is very appealing to me, it looks to be from the same photo shoot as the one used for Stevie Nicks Bombay Sapphires and was the reason I was drawn to that album too.

    I love Indian film but haven’t read much fiction so it’s good to be able to read someone else’s thought on a particular book – discovering one for yourself is difficult.

  45. Sounds like a great story mixed with some education on cultural differences & heightened awareness of what some members of our community may be dealing with. We have a large number of Indian immigrants in this region, so I will definitely put this on my list of books to read. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

    JHS
    Colloquium

  46. Sounds like a great story mixed with some education on cultural differences & heightened awareness of what some members of our community may be dealing with. We have a large number of Indian immigrants in this region, so I will definitely put this on my list of books to read. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

    JHS
    Colloquium

  47. Your review is great. I loved this book too. I started a sample on the kindle during the readathon. I immediately downloaded the whole book and read it in one sitting. I don’t even know how to put into words how great this book is. I do know that because of this book, I want to join your south asian author challenge (if I still can).
    I still need to write the reviw for my blog.

  48. Your review is great. I loved this book too. I started a sample on the kindle during the readathon. I immediately downloaded the whole book and read it in one sitting. I don’t even know how to put into words how great this book is. I do know that because of this book, I want to join your south asian author challenge (if I still can).
    I still need to write the reviw for my blog.

  49. I’ve bought this book just recently and I was sure by the excerpt that it should be good and your review supported my impulse !

  50. I’ve bought this book just recently and I was sure by the excerpt that it should be good and your review supported my impulse !

  51. I’ve seen this one mentioned before, but you’ve convinced me I need to add it to my list!

  52. I’ve seen this one mentioned before, but you’ve convinced me I need to add it to my list!

  53. Glad to see you enjoyed this one so much. It’s on my wish list and can’t to get to it.

  54. Glad to see you enjoyed this one so much. It’s on my wish list and can’t to get to it.

  55. Sounds wonderful. I really want to read this book now.

  56. Sounds wonderful. I really want to read this book now.

  57. I loved the book. Poignant and compelling. A tad bit disappointed that it did not end the way, I was hoping it would. Thank you for the review.

  58. Anonymous says:

    I loved the book. Poignant and compelling. A tad bit disappointed that it did not end the way, I was hoping it would. Thank you for the review.

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