Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: Secret Daughter


Format: Paperback
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks; Apr. 2011
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Grade: A
Source: Publisher

Synopsis: Gowda's debut novel opens in a small Indian village with a young woman giving birth to a baby girl. The father intends to kill the baby (the fate of her sister born before her) but the mother, Kavita, has her spirited away to a Mumbai orphanage. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Somer, a doctor who can't bear children, is persuaded by her Indian husband, Krishnan, to adopt a child from India. Somer reluctantly agrees and they go to India where they coincidentally adopt Kavita's daughter, Asha. Somer is overwhelmed by the unfamiliar country and concerned that the child will only bond with her husband because Asha and Krishnan will look alike, they will have their ancestry in common. Kavita, still mourning her baby girl, gives birth to a son. Asha grows up in California, feeling isolated from her heritage until at college she finds a way to visit her birth country. 

My Take:  I can't believe it's taken me so long to read this book! It's been sitting on my shelf for months and I knew from reviews I had seen and just seeing the synopsis that it would probably be one that I would like but why did I choose to deny myself for so long? Who knows, because I can honestly say that so far this is easily my favorite book of 2012! I found myself telling everyone I came in contact with while I was reading this book that they needed to read this book! It was just so moving and powerful for me and I felt that others needed to experience it to. So, let's dive in and talk about it.

Secret Daughter opens with Kavita, a poor Indian woman giving birth to a daughter. While her husband Jasu loves her, he cannot afford the dowry that having a daughter would mean on his meager farming salary. He needs a son to help him. This is not unusual, it happened all over India and still occurs today. Kavita's daughter, upon her arrival, is ripped from her hands and well, disposed of. Kavita and Jasu, in their own separate ways never get over what has occurred. So when Kavita falls pregnant and gives birth again to a daughter she'll be dammed if she lets Jasu do that again. So while still recovering from having given birth, her and her sister travel the distance to Bombay to put her daughter up for adoption. The only comfort this can bring Kavita is that at least she did all she could do to keep her daughter alive, but she will always wonder what happened to her 'secret daughter' because as far as Jasu knows, this daughter died at birth as well.

Meanwhile, far away in San Francisco, California, a bright, young couple are struggling to have a child. Somer has struggled through multiple miscarriages and is starting to lose the powerful and outgoing person she had become. Her Indian husband Krishnan suggests that perhaps they should consider adoption and that it could be expedited if they adopted an Indian child. Well guess who they adopted? Kavita's 'secret daughter.'

What is so captivating about Gowda's novel is that it is alternately told for the next twenty years from everyone's point of view: Somer's, Kavita's, their husband's, and the daughter they all share: Asha. As they grow and struggle, deal with what life has to offer them, and how they learn to raise a daughter that they love but struggles with not knowing her past, and how the others learn to cope with a daughter they will never know the fate of and always miss. Secret Daughter pulls at the heart strings and makes you consider a story from all sides, wanting to discuss it with everyone, which is the best kind of story. Knowing that this is Gowda's first novel only makes me more excited to see what she has to offer next!

Cover Lust: I like it. It totally captures the spirit of the book.

25 comments:

  1. I loved, loved, loved this book! I'm glad that you enjoyed it as well.

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  2. I'm like you -- bought this one when Borders was closing -- been sitting there ever since. Thanks for reminding me that I need to move it up! Great review!

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    1. Hope you read it soon - looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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  3. How funny, I've had this one on my shelf a long time too and just decided that I had to read it soon. Thanks for the review for letting me know I was right.

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  4. I utterly adored this one too. I just convinced my book club to read it for our March meeting, and I cannot wait to discuss it with them. Glad you loved it so much too!

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    1. Oh maybe I should recommend this one to my bookclub too!

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  5. I LOVED this book and recommended it to so many people last year so it makes me happy when someone else likes it

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  6. Fav book so far?! Wow, high praise indeed and I am intrigued :)

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  7. Not sure what's wrong with me, but I didn't love it. It was pretty good, but I was still kinda middle of the road about it. You can read my review here.

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    1. Oh I'm sorry but that's what I think is so good about books, everyone can have an opinion!

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  8. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I actually found it at a thrift store fairly recently. Looks like I'll have to get to it soon so it doesn't hang around the shelf too long!

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    1. Looking forward to your thoughts when you get around to it!

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  9. Your favorite of the year so far? This sounds so good. I love that it's told from multiple points of view.

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    1. Sometimes multiple viewpoints can be confusing but it works in this one!

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  10. Every time I read an excellent book like yours about this book, I ask myself "why haven't I read this yet"? No response -- except "too many books". Glad u loved this.

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    1. Someday there will be time right? :)

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  11. I have this on my bookshelf too but sadly it is unread. I will have to dig it out and try to get to it one of these days. Glad to hear you enjoyed it! It makes me want to get to it soon!

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  12. Though I enjoyed this one, I found myself so frustrated by Asha -- especially in how she treated Somer -- that it was often a tough read for me. Definitely thought-provoking and interesting for a discussion, though!

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  13. I read this book when it first came out and really enjoyed it!

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  14. I LOVED this book - it was on my Top 10 for 2011. Can't wait to see what the author writes next.

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