SECRET DAUGHTER by Shilpi Somaya Gowda


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Fiction with a conscience, as two couples worlds apart are linked by an adopted child.

Gowda’s debut opens in 1984 with poor Indian village-dweller Kavita giving birth to a second daughter. When her first was born, husband Jasu immediately arranged the child’s death. Girls are a luxury the couple can’t afford; they need boys, who don’t require dowries and can help with the labor of surviving. This time around, Kavita stands up to Jasu, names the baby Usha and takes her to an orphanage. Adopted and renamed Asha, she becomes the only child of Krishnan, scion of a wealthy Bombay family, who is now a neurosurgeon in San Francisco, and his American wife Somer. Asha’s arrival assuages some of Somer’s pain over her infertility but brings its own cultural problems. Asha grows up feeling incomplete, cut off from half her heritage by her mother’s fears and neediness. As a college student, her flair for journalism leads to a fellowship, and she chooses to spend the year in Bombay (now Mumbai), giving Gowda further opportunity to describe India, mainly its gender imbalance and the social divide between the wealthy and the grindingly impoverished. Somer and Krishnan’s marriage goes through a rocky phase, and Kavita and Jasu have problems too, but Asha’s visit inevitably provides the opportunity to connect some, if not all, of the loose ends.

A lightweight fable of family division and reconciliation, gaining intensity and depth from the author’s sharp social observations.

Pub Date: March 9th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-192231-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2009


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