Secret Daughter – book review
I love traveling to India.
I’ve never been there in the flesh, but frequently visit through literature (The Namesake and The White Tiger were other recent trips), and I find its colorful saris, succulent dishes and chaotic streets intriguing and intoxicating. My family knows when I am reading a book set in India – I offer them chai tea in the afternoon, and experiment with new curry dishes for dinner – my sweet potato and lentil dish the other night was particularly good.
Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s novel, Secret Daughter, shows us two sides of India: primitive villages, where its inhabitants struggle to feed themselves and dream of a better life, and the privileged urban upper class, who throw elaborate weddings and lead more fanciful lives geared towards shopping and entertaining. The distance between the two India’s is gaping and shocking, the divide almost never bridged.
Gowda begins by detailing the chilling treatment of infant girls and women in these remote villages, where farming is a priority, and boys and men favored. Our protagonist is Kavita, and readers are quickly seduced by her growing strength and resolve in the face of India’s pro-testosterone culture.
Halfway around the globe in San Francisco lives Somer, the other protagonist and voice in this book. Through Somer, readers are introduced to the miseries of infertility, as she plummets to the depths of despair due to her inability to conceive.
These women are worlds apart in every way, geographically, educationally and culturally, yet their lives are brought closer together by the child Kavita risked her life to deliver to an orphanage, saving not only her baby daughter, but also Somer’s marriage and, perhaps, life, in the process.
Filled with courage and hope, the importance of family and love, and shedding light on modern Mumbai, this journey to India is a worthy trip; but remember to pack some Kleenex.