Special Book Review – The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

secret daughterblurb from goodreads.com, please scroll down to read the reviews from my online bookclub

On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both of their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families—one Indian, one American—and the child that indelibly connects them.

What a great response this month with this book. Thanks to all who participated.

Amanda Robertson-Sayer

I really enjoyed this book and was sad to finish it. It kept me interested all the way through. I liked the way the chapters were written between Mumbai and America. I thought the story covered some serious issues but the way it is written made it very easy to read. The characters were believable and their emotional journey was both thought provoking and a good insight to another culture. There were also some very good descriptions of Mumbai, I could imagine the slums and the smells as I read…..I did however think the ending was a bit sudden, I think the author could of done much more.

An excellent read.
I really enjoyed this well balanced novel – set in both India and America, it is narrated by several of the characters but never becomes confusing or dull. Many complex issues are covered, including adoption from third world countries into affluent Western families and the extreme poverty that can force a family to dispose of female offspring. I found the issues sensitively handled throughout and admit to crying towards the end. (The sure sign of a good book!).
There are several main characters who all form part of the narrative; Kavita and Jasu from a poverty stricken area of India, and American Somer and her Indian husband Krishnan from San Fransisco and California.
Their daughter Usha/Asha binds the future of the two families when she is adopted and moved to US.
The journey that Kavita and Jasu make to Bombay, to search for their hope of a better life, was an eye opener, and the wealthy family that Krishnan comes from was also interesting, with the matriach, Dadima holding everything together.
There were some interesting contrasts – the slum life of Mumbai vs the riches of America, and the strength of the arranged marriages in India vs the stresses of modern life on the love matches of the West. It certainly provided food for thought.
Although the overall feel of the book was that the women were frequently the stronger characters, the men also played a vital role but their characters had less chance to speak.
I was fascinated to read that the author spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage; being of Indian descent and living in America, I felt that it was a book written from the heart.
Certainly an author I will read again.
Recommended. 5 stars.

Mary Edgley
The Secret Daughter…. Not secret enough for me!
Life is too short to labour at finishing a book that doesn’t do it for you – unless there is an exam at the end.
I read about 45% and then decided enough. The Indian woman fearful of ‘losing’ a second girl child; the successful American woman who is so good with others children but cannot have her own; the cultural challenges of a marriage of two distinctive and radically different cultures….. I found it all very predictable and depressing.
One could suspect the quality of the ‘backbone’ of some of the characters but it was generally that ascribed by the reader. The writing managed to be naive but without any of the charm that description implies. For me, character development was poor and even the flavour of the two countries topology, culture, environment and society…. without seasoning.
I found myself wanting to ‘life coach’ those who were living with such emotional crisis and unable to see for themselves their own strength of character. Sadly neither could the author.
The word ‘shallow’ will be my enduring memory of this book if I ever had cause to consider it again and I am left with the impression that it is a long-winded version of a book outline rather than a finished product.

Julie May
I really enjoyed The Secret Daughter even though it isn’t a book I would have chosen to read. I liked the fact that it was told from different perspectives and switched between India and USA. It certainly brought home how differently male and female children are treated. I found it an easy read and would probably read it again. Good choice

Jane Quintanar
I liked the book. Being in a multiethnic family myself, I could relate to the difficulty in fitting in and not looking like your children (although mine aren’t adopted, they really take after their father!). I did think that the mom (sorry, can’t think of her name right now and don’t have the book on my iPad!) should have made more of an attempt to understand her husband’s culture and help her daughter learn about her Indian heritage. I was a little disappointed that Asha didn’t get to meet her biological parents (mom at least) to know that she wasn’t not loved. It really brought out the point that in many places boys are still more valued than girls and the extremes people will go to.

Helen Gray
I enjoyed the Secret Daughter. I liked that the story was told from different perspectives and view points and in the different locations. Brought up many issues – the contrasting lives between America and India and also within India. It was interesting reading Asha’s story – her need to discover where she had come from and her culture and I loved the relationship with her grandmother. It was sad that Somer had’t made more effort regarding India and her husband’s family as I think things did improve by the end of the book. I think Asha was certainly more appreciative of what her adoptive parent’s had done for her and hopefully her relationship with Somer would improve.

Jenny Mac
I enjoyed it but don’t know why!! It was light & frothy, more latte than full on espresso. Found I was fuming with the mother at first for not allowing Asha to embrace her culture, because of what I felt where her own insecurities. Then switched to the father as he had no excuses or barriers, then just gave up on them both! Was hungry all the way through the book with all the descriptions of food & probably put on a good few pounds! Overall a bit clichéd for me, but still enjoyed it.

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