Sunday, July 18

Book Review: Secret Daughter: A Novel

Title: Secret Daughter: A Novel

Author: Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Pages: 346

Summary: On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.

Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.

Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both of their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnesses through the lives of two families - one Indian, one American - and the child that indelibly connects them.

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This book was the July choice for an online book discussion group, initially I was unsure about the book and whether I’d like it. But it was chosen for this month, and because the library wait list was miles long, and the ebook version at my library also had a long wait list, I ended up running out to buy a copy of the book, so I could join in the book discussion group. I’m glad I did, as this was a wonderful book, beautifully written, and has a cast of characters that will make you laugh and cry.

The book has a lot of strengths, one of which is the author has an incredible ability to tell a story. Not only is she a talented writer, but she has done a fantastic job at creating her characters, making them and the world around them come alive off of the pages. At times, the characters’ emotions seemed to come alive off the page, at times I was near tears, well done on the author’s part. I love it when you can become so involved with the characters that it plays with your emotions that you hate it when certain things happen to them. The author did a fantastic job at doing this, and making the reader emotionally involved with the characters. Kavita and her story was what really grasped me, and Jasu, who also surprised me. I won’t say more abut Jasu, as I don’t want to spoil anything, but I eventually grew to really enjoy and respect his character.

Another aspect of the book I really enjoyed was the look at the Indian culture. The reader gets to experience a variety of aspects of Indian culture, from life in rural villages, to that of the life living in the larger city, and some eye opening, and shocking realities the characters face when they get there, the contrast between the slums of India was both interesting and very well written. The reader gets a solid look at the Indian culture, and the vast differences in class alone. On top of that they are also exposed to other culture aspects including; the division between the sexes, religion, food, and rights of passage. I think this is another reason why I loved the book so much and felt my self drawn into it, was because I was able to experience a culture foreign to me and learn a lot about the culture. At the same time, the reader is brought back to America, so it was an interesting contrast to see two very different cultures brought together by a group of related characters.

What I didn’t like? Somer and Krishnan, both of these characters bothered me a lot. I felt them to be selfish, ignorant, and at times stupid. I did feel horrible for what they went through at the beginning of the book, but I just didn’t like them. A lot of their actions, how they reacted to certain things through out the book, made it hard for me to like them. When they were both in India is one example, that entire part really bothered me, because they’re a couple of two very different cultures, yet neither one tries to learn about or teach the other about the Indian culture. And with them adopting a child from India, you’d think they’d make that extra effort. Overall, I couldn’t relate to or like these two characters. Although their story was interesting to read, the actual characters and their qualities bothered me.

With that being said, it was the only issue I took with the book; I enjoyed everything else about it and thought it was a wonderful story, full of emotion, characterization and gives the reader a glimpse at the Indian culture and it is well worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read: I would highly recommend this book to read, it really was a brilliant story, and a great summer read.

What to read next: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter might be a good choice, I’ve yet to read it, but it might have some similarities in addressing issues surrounding the family.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review Challenge, Pages Read Challenge, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, Countdown Challenge, RYOB Challenge


  1. I have this book down on my wishlist, the cover really appealed to me and the story sounds wonderful. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Wonderful review! I really want to read this book, and since I live fiction centered around India, it seems like a perfect choice. I also like that the characters are so well developed that you can really feel attached to them. I am going to be looking for this book. I am betting on the fact that I will love it too!

  3. I read about this somewhere else recently and it sounded really interesting. Glad to get a second recommendation here!

  4. Carole - It was a wonderful story, I also like the cover, it is a bit shimmery I guess you could say, or has a bit of gloss to it.

    Zibilee - You should really read the book ;). It's a good choice if you want to read more books centred around India. It has sparked an interest to read more. I think it's a good place to start. The characters in the book really made a difference.

    Amanda - I hope you get a chance to read it, well worth it!