Sunday, March 21, 2010

REVIEW: Secret Daughter


Secret Daughter 
Shilpi Somaya Gowada
William Morrow
$ 23.99
Pp 352


A stunning debut novel that explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity and culture, witnessed through the lives of two families, one Indian, one American, and the daughter who indelibly binds them. 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 convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles....

From Dallas News
Dualities abound in this engrossing first novel by Dallas writer Shilpi Somaya Gowda.
The story arcs over 25 years in two nations with very different cultures: India and the United States. The narrative follows two sets of parents, and at the heart of the tale are two children.

One is a boy who grows up to live a double life so that he and his parents might escape the Mumbai slums. The other child is his sister, a little girl with two names, who is born into one culture but grows up in the other.
Gowda knows both worlds. She was born in Toronto and grew up there, with parents who were Mumbai natives. She earned her university degrees in the United States, but she never lost touch with her Indian roots. In 1991, she spent a summer working in an orphanage in India, and her experiences there, especially her friendship with a charming toddler girl, inspired Gowda to write the story of Asha, the child whose life is forever changed by a mother's sacrifice. 

Because of a change for her husband, Gowda moved to Dallas from San Francisco in 2005 and enrolled in writing classes at Southern Methodist University. Secret Daughter, which grew out of a class project, "would not have gotten written unless I made that move," she says.

Gowda's cultural ties to India, along with her Western life and education, led her to create two very different women: Kavita Merchant, the impoverished villager who knows too well what happens to unwanted girls, and Somer Whitman, the American pediatrician who marries a fellow physician from India.

Full review here

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