Two Mothers, One Daughter   1 comment

Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s first novel, Secret Daughter, is about families – especially mother-daughter relationships. Two women, one unable to have a child and the other unable to keep hers, are the primary focus – along with Asha, the daughter given up by one and adopted by the other.

Somer, a pediatrician in the San Francisco Bay area is married to Kris, a surgeon originally from Mumbai. Across the world in an Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a daughter she knows her husband does not want, and will not let her keep. Although the women never meet their lives are unwittingly bound when Kavita leaves her child at an orphanage. Through a series of coincidences that often only occur in fiction, the girl, Asha, is adopted by Somer and Kris.

Gowda’s narrative moves from the Bay Area to Mumbai, as it shifts from one woman’s perspective to the other, before, thankfully, settling on Asha. Somer‘s character is whiney and distant; Kavita is mostly sad and compliant. Despite environment and genetics working against her, Asha grows up to be an intelligent, inquisitive young woman. That’s not to say, she is flawless. At her worse, as a teenager, she is rude and insensitive; at her best, as a college student interning at a Mumbai newspaper, she is empathetic and appreciative. Of course, it takes time for the latter qualities to evolve.

Gowda’s writing is strongest describing the contrasts between India’s wealthy and the destitute. The colors, sights, and smells are vivid – even when the reader might prefer otherwise.

Secret Daughter
Three Bookmarks
William Morrow, 2010
339 pages

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