Secret Daughter is a wonderful book about motherhood. It was the kind of book that I had a hard time putting down, and that had me thinking not only about the injustices of the world, but also the relationships between mother and daughter.
Secret Daughter is the tale of two mothers and one daughter. In a small rural village in India in 1984, Kavita bears her second child. Her first daughter was taken away and killed by her husband. Not wanting the same fate for her second daughter, Kavita journeys to Bombay with her sister to an orphanage. She journeys right after giving birth! I was in pain just reading this section. At the orphanage, Kavita gives up her young daughter to hopefully a better life, but can’t stop thinking about her.
Somer is a doctor that is enjoying life with a fulfilling career and a wonderful husband, Krishnan. Only one more thing would make life complete, a baby. Unfortunately Somer suffers multiple miscarriages and it is determined that she is going through a very early menopause. Distraught that she can’t have a baby, she eventually warms to an idea of getting a baby from an orphanage in her husband’s hometown of Bombay.
Somer and Krishnan travel to Bombay and adopt Kavita’s daughter Usha and mistakenly believe her name to be Asha. They travel back to California and lovingly raise her. Meanwhile in India Kavita has a third child, a much celebrated boy. Kavita, her husband, and young son move to Bombay to look for a better life than they believe they can live in their village. The stories of these two families are entwined, especially after Asha returns to India as a young college student to work at a newspaper and get to know her father Krishnan’s family. Through her journey, Asha learns what it really means to be a family, and the sacrifices that a mother has to make.
I loved Secret Daughter. It was the kind of book that really got me thinking and talking about world topics, in this case how baby girls are undervalued in some countries. Undervalued to the point of selective sex abortions and infanticide. These topics seem almost incomprehensible to me living in the United States. I think my husband may have gotten tired of me talking about it while I read this book!
It was not only weighty topics that drew me to this novel; I really enjoyed the growth of the characters and the exploration of motherhood. Somer and Kavita are very different types of mothers, but yet each in their own way was instrumental to the woman that Asha would become. Asha didn’t appreciate Somer as a mother until she grew older and reached a better understanding of the sacrifices that a mother makes in raising her child. I loved this journey and understood it both as a daughter and a mother.
As a mother Somer faces many challenges. She was a top notch doctor with a lot of ambition before she adopted Asha, but afterwards she changed her career paths and goals in order to have more time with her daughter. This led to one of my favorite quotes in the novel:
“Somer has no time for the PTA and bake sales. She has no time for herself. Her profession no longer defines her, but neither does being a mother. Both are pieces of her, and yet they don’t seem to add up to a whole. Somer didn’t know that having it all, as she always believed she would, would mean that she’s falling short everywhere. She tries to reassure herself that life is about trade-offs and she should make her peace with this one, though more often than not, it is an uneasy peace.”
This quote really resonated with me and is something that I often feel myself. Trying to work part-time as an engineer as well as part-time stay at home with my kids is hard work. I often feel like I can’t keep up on either side and get everything done to the best of my abilities.
Overall, Secret Daughter is a beautifully written novel that explores the relationships between mothers and daughters as well as the importantance of women in our society. I highly recommend it.
Book Source: Morrow Paperbacks, HarperCollins Publishers. Thank-you!
Megan from HarperCollins has been kind enough to offer one copy of Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda for a giveaway.
If you would like to win a copy of Secret Daughter please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel.
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.
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This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).
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The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday June 10th.
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