Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya GowdaA book about mothers and daughters bridging two very different cultures. Usha is born to a destitute family in rural India in 1984. Rather than have her daughter killed by family members who see her as a useless female, Kavita secretly smuggles Usha to an orphanage and tells her husband she is dead. Usha is adopted by a pair of doctors and raised by this well-to-do family in California. The book shuttles back and forth between the lives of Somer (the adoptive mother) and Kavita and contrasts their experiences as mothers, wives and daughters as Usha (now named Asha) grows up. Neither woman has an easy life – for very different reasons. Even as a little girl, Asha longs to find out more about her birth parents and her Indian culture. Now, in her twenties, on a journalism scholarship, she travels to India, stays with her adoptive father’s family, and attempts to discover why she was left at the orphanage.

What the Armchair Critics Thought:
This was an interesting read with lovely descriptive passages evoking the colours, sounds and smells of India. The contrasts in family relationships and cultural traditions were well developed, although we did think the character of Somer was a little two dimensional and less sympathetic than that of Kavita. We thought Gowda might be showing her own bias toward her Indian culture. However, this is only the author’s first novel and we look forward to reading her future books.

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