Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I really enjoyed reading The Secret Daughter but was initially frustrated for the first half of the book where the chapters jumped with years in between. It left me wanting more and wishing the book would slow down. Once Asha arrives in Mumbai on a fellowship to do a story on children living in poverty the novel slows down and becomes rich with detail, especially family connections and Indian culture.

Asha also goes to Mumbai for her own personal reasons. She is yearning to understand her Indian heritage since she left India at the age of one. She also has a secret reason for going, one that she is unwilling to share with her parents; she wants to find her biological parents. The other half of the novel is presented in alternating chapters between her biological parents and her adoptive parents lives.

The harsh realities of poverty and unsanitary living conditions are interwoven with the bonds of love and family, providing an excellent backdrop to the story of how Asha came to be loved and adopted by her American mother and Indian father. The trials her biological parents faced are countered by the vacations, elite schools, and successes of the daughter secretly given up by her mother to an orphanage in Mumbai. The first page of the book provides some hint as to the ending and unlike so many other books about India that end sadly (as is often real life) this one ends nicely.

Overall, I wish the author had taken more time to more fully develop the time frame consisting of the first nineteen years of Asha's life, but the second half makes the book worthwhile. The author also provides a glossary at the back of the book which is very helpful and something I wish more authors using foreign words would do.


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