Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda was a pleasant, easy read about Asha, a girl adopted out of an orphanage in Mumbai, and the two women who are bound to her. Kavita is a poor woman living in India, forced to give her second newborn daughter away in order to prevent the child from being murdered at the hands of her husband, who only seeks sons. Somer is a physician in San Francisco who discovers that she will never be able to have any children and thus, decides to adopt one from an orphanage in Mumbai.
“These tears are always accumulating, intensifying inside her. She pushes them down over and over, a hundred times a day – every time she hears a child’s voice, or examines a patient’s small body – until that moment comes…And in that moment when she is unsuspecting, the tears finally rage uncontrollably, from someplace deep, deep inside her she barely recognizes.”page 38
Gowda’s writing in this novel is descriptive while still maintaining direction, a straight-forwardness. She refrains from using overly sophisticated words that I’ve noticed in other novels, often using simple sentences to carefully convey her story. This does not mean that the novel is plain. In fact, it is anything but. The writing is coherent and refreshing; reading this book was a breeze. I love the way the novel switches between the perspectives of the two mothers and Asha, also occasionally featuring the husbands’ points of view. Seeing the story from the lenses of a variety of characters allows readers to delve deep into the various challenges and joys of being a child as well as a parent, a mother.
“‘…it’s time,’ Rupa says, gently reaching for the baby in Kavita’s arms. And now, all Kavita can hear is screaming…She feels Rupa firmly pulling her up by her shoulders and pushing her down the hallway toward the front door…Kavita’s arms are still outstretched, but they hold nothing.”page 34
I will admit that halfway through the novel, I felt that the excitement and the flow of writing died down a little. I stopped reading it for about a week, thinking that the author had lost her passion for the story. When I picked it up again, I noticed that the plateau did not last very long, so I had been mistaken. However, I do believe the issues that the various characters were experiencing resolve themselves too abruptly. I prefer to see characters grow at a slower pace.
All in all, I rate this book a 4/5. Despite the little dull patch halfway through the novel, it was a very smooth read and I enjoyed it immensely. Not only is this novel well-written, it also raises a lot of important issues surrounding gender equality, such as sex-selective abortion. I highly recommend you read it.