Shilpi Somaya Gowda strikes a pleasing balance in her first novel, which draws upon the hot-button issues of female infanticide and overseas adoption…Secret Daughter tells a nuanced coming-of-age story that is faithful to the economic and emotional realities of two very different cultures…Gowda doesn't neaten up the messy complications of family life as she warmly affirms the power of love to help people grow and change.
Wendy Smith - Washington Post
A debut novel from [a] fresh, vibrant voice portraying a heroine straddling two cultures ... offers readers cause of celebration ... A page-turning dual narrative.
Charlotte Observer / Raleigh News & Observer
This story about motherhood, loss, family and forgiveness is authentic in every way. The prose is so achingly touching, it draws the reader in with every description and emotion of the characters.
Gowda’s debut novel opens in a small Indian village with a young woman giving birth to a baby girl. The father intends to kill the baby (the fate of her sister born before her) but the mother, Kavita, has her spirited away to a Mumbai orphanage. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Somer, a doctor who can’t bear children, is persuaded by her Indian husband, Krishnan, to adopt a child from India. Somer reluctantly agrees and they go to India where they coincidentally adopt Kavita’s daughter, Asha. Somer is overwhelmed by the unfamiliar country and concerned that the child will only bond with her husband because “Asha and Krishnan will look alike, they will have their ancestry in common.” Kavita, still mourning her baby girl, gives birth to a son. Asha grows up in California, feeling isolated from her heritage until at college she finds a way to visit her birth country. Gowda’s subject matter is compelling, but the shifting points of view weaken the story.
Responding to poverty and a cultural preference for boys, an Indian mother hides her newborn daughter in an orphanage. The girl is adopted by an Indian-born doctor and his American wife, who live in California. Parallel stories are told of young Asha's life in America, where she is distanced from her native culture, and the growing rift between her adoptive parents, along with the fate of her birth parents and their son, who leave their small village for Mumbai and gradually rise out of poverty. After a slow start and some trite dialog, the book becomes more engrossing, as Asha takes a journalism fellowship in Mumbai and seeks a greater connection to her roots. First novelist Gowda offers especially vivid descriptions of the contrasts and contradictions of modern India. Verdict: Rife with themes that lend themselves to discussion, such as cultural identity, adoption, and women's roles, this will appeal to the book club crowd. —Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
In her engaging debut, Gowda weaves together two compelling stories. In India in 1984, destitute Kavita secretly carries her newborn daughter to an orphanage.... That same year in San Francisco...two doctors...adopt Asha, a 10-month-old Indian girl from a Bombay orphanage. Yes, it’s Kavita’s daughter. In alternating chapters, Gowda traces Asha’s life in America...and Kavita and Jasu’s hardships...in Dharavi, Bombay’s (now Mumbai’s) infamous slum.... Gowda writes with compassion and uncanny perception from the points of view of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, while portraying the vibrant traditions, sights, and sounds of modern India. —Deborah Donovan
Fiction with a conscience, as two couples worlds apart are linked by an adopted child.... A lightweight fable of family division and reconciliation, gaining intensity and depth from the author's sharp social observations.
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