Sometimes the image in our minds of what we have lost is far greater than the loss itself, and so it is for Asha, who was given up for adoption by her birthparents in India.
Boys are the prized possession in the Indian village where Kavita Merchant gives birth to a daughter. She loves this child and cannot bear to have her husband, Jasu, leave her to die, as he did with their first girl. In secret, she names her Usha, or dawn, and painstakingly makes her way from her village to then-Bombay when the baby is just three days old. She leaves the child at an orphanage, and every day for the rest of her life, she lives with the pain of her decision. But for Kavita, it was the only way to save the girl.
The child is renamed Asha, meaning hope, and adopted by a couple — an Indian man and his American wife — who live in California. Krishnan and Somer Thakkar are both doctors. Slowly, Somer begins to realize what it means to be a mother, about the small and large sacrifices. But her child doesn't look like her, and Somer worries that she will one day lose Asha to her native land. The relationship between the couple begins to unravel as Somer refuses to accept the Indian culture, rarely visiting her husband's family. This also strains her relationship with Asha.
Secret Daughter (William Morrow, 352 pages, $23.99), by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
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