I originally picked up Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda to read for this new chick lit book club I recently joined. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward reading it as it seemed a heavier tone than “chick lit” normally is. (Think: Shopaholic novels) I wasn’t sure I would be into the weight subject material.
But after reading the first couple of chapters, I realized I was about to read not only a good book but what would turn out to be one of my favourite books. I ended up reading the whole thing within a day losing a lot of much-needed sleep.
Secret Daughter follows the interconnected lives of three women: Kavita, an Indian woman who gives away her newborn baby girl in order to save her life and is haunted by that decision. Somer, an American doctor who, with her husband, adopts the little girl after finding out they are infertile. And Asha, the little girl born in India and raised in America who tries to understand where she comes from and how she fits into it now.
Gowda’s writing is intense and emotional, particularly when telling Kavita’s story as she describes her longing for her daughter, even after she has her prized son. The emotional depth with which she writes about relationships, between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives resonated with me in a very real way.
I also quite enjoyed her imagery of Mumbai, India where you can see the best of mankind and worst of mankind all in one city. The colours, the smells and the tastes of India were so evocative that I really felt like I was there, even though I’ve only known India from a handful of movies and photographs.
I also enjoyed the culture clash sensitively described not only between India and America, but also between the old world and the new. Tradition vs modernization. In this way, I am reminded of one of my other favourite books, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri which also navigates the same waters in a similarly touching manner.
I encourage everyone to go read this book immediately. I’m so glad I read this book for a book club so I can discuss with people all the thoughts I have running through the head.