All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter, by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, is the moving story of two women: Kavita, who gives birth in a remote village in India, and Somer, an American doctor who adopts Kavita’s daughter and brings her to the United States. But it is much more than that.

Secret Daughter is multi-layered and complex. While the plot centers around Asha, the biological daughter of Kavita and her life in America, it is also about family: how a family is created, how the creation of a family affects a marriage, and how cultural differences affect family relationships.

Gowda’s characters are likable and well-developed. For example, she skillfully interweaves the bitter truths of class distinctions in India to help the reader understand why Kavita would take her daughter to the orphanage in Bombay days after her birth. We learn how Somer’s miscarriages and the unlikelihood of future conception contribute to her intense possessiveness of Asha. And we are introduced to Somer’s mother-in-law, herself a mutli-faceted character, fiercely adherent to some traditions while simultaneously disregarding others.

Kavita’s life in India is hard. Her husband, Jasu, is a proud and traditional Indian man, who strives to create a better life for his wife and son. His character matures as the book progresses, and we see how Kavita and Jasu’s relationship deepens.

Somer Whitman Thakkar, Asha’s adoptive mother, is married to Krishnan, an Indian- born doctor. Gowda describes Somer’s struggles sympathetically. Somer feels alienated and threatened by Krishnan and Asha’s shared culture and is fearful of losing them both. She feels out of place in India with her husband Krishnan’s family and makes little effort to embrace Indian culture. Both she and Kris question, as their marriage unravels, their blindness to the differences in their cultures and their lack of motivation to address them.

Asha, now a twenty-year-old college student, returns to India for a journalism internship at a prestigious newspaper. Gowda allows the reader to discover along with Asha, that Kavita’s decision was not an easy one but necessary for Asha’s survival in a culture that favored baby boys. In addition, Asha learns about her father’s family and their customs and traditions, and that family is not necessarily inherited, but is cultivated and nurtured.

This is a lovely story about learning how to be a family, to respect differences, to seek understanding, and to give as well as receive. Secret Daughter was published by HarperCollins in 2010.

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