Secret Daughter: Book summary and reviews of Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter

A Novel

By Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter
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  • Published in USA  Mar 2010,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"First novelist Gowda offers especially vivid descriptions of the contrasts and contradictions of modern India. ... 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." - Library Journal

"[A] lightweight fable of family division and reconciliation, gaining intensity and depth from the author's sharp social observations." - Kirkus Reviews

"Gowda’s subject matter is compelling, but the shifting points of view weaken the story." - Publishers Weekly

"Gowda has masterfully portrayed two families... linked by a powerful, painful tie that complicates their lives... A thought-provoking examination of the challenges of being a woman in America and in India -- and in the psychological spaces in between." - Chitra Divakaruni, author of The Palace of Illusions

"The Secret Daughter is a deeply moving and timeless story of an adopted daughter's long distance search for cultural identity and acceptance; first with the mother who raised her, and ultimately with the mother who gave her up." - Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Michele Z. (saint james, NY)
a rising author
This was an enjoyable book about love from many different family aspects. The characters were well developed and for the most part likable. The Indian culture was vividly described. It would make a good choice for a book club due to the relationship issues. I hope there are many more books by Shilpi Gowda to come!

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Kimberli M. (Jessup, MD)
Great Book!!
I really enjoyed Secret Daughter. It was very well written and I felt like I really knew the characters. It was really eye opening to see what life can be like in India. It was also great to see the journey that each one of the characters went on. They all grew in some way.

I cried at the end of the book, but it wasn't a bad cry. I would definitely recommend this book and will look for future books from this author. Secret Daughter is a great book for book clubs. There are many things to talk about.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Sally G. (Saint Johns, FL)
Secret Daughter
I enjoyed this story of India, adoption, culture differences, families and history.

The author takes you on a journey with Somer, a singular breadth of view, only child of well-to-do parents brought up in California and her meeting and marriage to Krishnan, a fellow intern that happens to be from India.

Somer is not a bad person at all, but has the plight of an only child that has never had to share or compromise.

The contrast is in the parallel story where we meet Kavita, an Indian woman that morns the loss of two daughters, one that she gives to an orphanage and one that dies.

My favorite character is Krishnan’s mother, Sarla. As a mother-in-law she is judgmental but understanding of this new daughter-in-law and is portrayed as a wise woman and great grandmother.

Secret Daughter has deep meanings of differences in old cultures. Some can be ever so cruel but others are wonderful

I know you will want to read and savor this powerful book of strong, smart women with so much food for thought and contemplation.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Pamela H. (Winston Salem, NC)
Secret Daughter, a Review
In the first chapter or so, the language seems a bit overwrought, and did not ring true to me. The California setting seemed a bit bland and stereotypical. The book really got interesting to me as I experienced Asha's discovery of Indian life and culture. Very touching ending. Audience for this book is most likely to be women. While engaging, the main characters are not as robust and well drawn, as the characters in White Tiger, also set in India.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Gretchen M. (Martinsburg, WV)
Strong Female Characters
I had a hard time getting interested in this book for the first 5 or so chapters. The characters were not "coming to life" for me. But as I read on I was anxious to see how Somer and Asha, her adopted daughter from India, learned from their mistakes and grew up together. I was disappointed that the author didn't do the same with the main male character of the story, Krishnan, who never seemed to own up to his part in the marital problems. This book will appeal to readers who are interested in the role cultural differences play in marriage, family dynamics, adoption and the mother-daughter relationship. This book requires a lot of "reading between the lines." The author paints a very vivid picture of the contrasting economic, social and physical conditions that exist in India.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Phoenix M. (Eclectic, AL)
Secret Daughter
This is a story of two mothers; Kavita from India and Somer from America. They are from two extremely different backgrounds and cultures, but each have family struggles and challenges to endure.

The story unfolds the daring love for their daughters and shows that this love is an instrument of healing in both families.

This book provides an excellent view of the everyday life of a woman in Indian culture. Kavita makes extreme sacrifices but triumphs over all.

This would make the perfect book for a club to discuss.

...15 more reader reviews

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Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto to parents who migrated there from Mumbai. She holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor's Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1991, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage. A native of Canada, she has lived in New York, North Carolina, and California. She now lives in Dallas with her husband and children. This is her first novel.

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