"Secret Daughter"

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Asha Thakkar was born in India where she lived in an orphanage for a year before being adopted by an American couple, Somer and Kris Thakkar, who would take her back to America and raise her in California. She was aware of looking different than the other kids she went to school with but that didn't bother her much - her father, also from India, looked a lot like her. As she grew into her late teens she felt herself growing farther away from  her mother until the distance became, it seemed to Asha, uncrossable.

Kavita and Jesu Merchant were Asha's birth parents (they named her Usha but it had been misread at the orphanage). She was given up for adoption because she was a girl in a culture that had little use for them, and her parents could not afford to raise more than one child. They would wait for a boy. If you are troubled by the fact that they gave their baby girl away, wait till you find out what happened to their first child, another girl born before Asha. I'm glad I was born in Canada. Inevitably, Asha begins to wonder about them - who they were, why they gave her up, where they are now. Eventually she travels to India where she is welcomed into the family of her adopted father and she begins the search for her biological parents.

These three stories - Asha's, Somer's and Kavita's - are woven together over a period of 25 years, partly set in America and partly in India. The husbands play a fairly large part in the story but the book is really about the women in all their various roles as daughters, wives, mothers and grandmothers. We follow them through the joys and sorrows of love, marriage, motherhood and loss and the constant struggle for an identity of their own.

I thought this book was pretty good for a first novel; the plot has some depth and the characters enough complexity to make them interesting. The parts set in India are well detailed and show the disparity between poor and rich in a convincing way. The colours, sounds and smells of India come to life through the story. I was a bit disappointed at the ending - it seemed weak to me. One situation was left unaddressed and another was resolved too easily. I wanted at least one more chapter to sort out some of the complications in a more realistic way.

As a cultural lesson on India it was good and I thought it was a fairly strong story dealing with some hard topics. Overall it was an interesting read that I can recommend. If you do read it, there's a glossary at the back that would have been helpful if I had found it earlier.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Post a Comment