Book Review: Secret Daughter

I thoroughly enjoyed writing my last book review, so I thought that I would do another one. I just finished “Secret Daughter” by Shilpi Somaya Gowda and I LOVED it! The ending needs a little bit of work, but other than that, I couldn’t put it down. If you plan on reading this book, you should stop reading my blog post now because I will probably drop a ton of spoilers.

I started this book right after I finished the last Harry Potter book because I wanted to read something completely different. This book is both entertaining and informative and I found myself really identifying with some of the characters.

The book begins in a small village in India. A woman named Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. She actually gives birth to two baby girls (at different times), but the first one is taken by her husband and is killed by his cousin because the husband feels that they really need a boy to help with their family farm. When Kavita gives birth to a second girl, her husband comes to her and again tells her that they must get rid of this baby because they need a boy and they don’t have the money to care for two children. Kavita then decides to make a long journey to an orphanage in the Indian city of Mumbai. One thing that astonished me in this part of the book is that the husband’s parents wanted the husband to “get rid of” his wife for having two daughters based on the notion that women who have two daughters without any sons has committed a sin in their past life that they are now being punished for. It astonishes me that people around the world still don’t understand the notion of conception (it is actually the male sperm that chooses the sex of a baby – women’s eggs all contain the “X” chromosome and sperm can either be “X” [resulting in a female when coupled with the “X” in the egg] or “Y” [resulting in a male]). I understand that this part of the book was supposed to have taken place in 1984 and I’m not sure how much was known at that point as I was not yet born, but I know that there are still cultures and places today that believe that the mother’s behaviour will have an effect on the sex outcome of a child. Anyways, back to the point of the story… The mother gives up the baby and eventually has a son who they try to give as many chances as possible. The son, however, ends up being an utter disappointment because he enters the drug trade at a young age and does not see this as something that is wrong or inappropriate in any way (some of my readers may not know that I am VERY anti-drug – I have NEVER done any illegal drugs and never intend to).

We then enter into another part of the story and are introduced to Somer and Krishnan Thakkar. They have tried to have biological children of their own, but are unable to. Somer suffers through a string of miscarriages and this part of the book genuinely made me cry. Miscarrying is one of the things that I am terrified about. To know that you have actually conceived a perfect little baby and that you can be as careful as possible and still lose it is absolutely terrifying to me. My aunts on my Dad’s side have had some miscarriages and Tyler’s Mom also had a miscarriage when he was young. The very idea simply terrifies me.

Anyway, the little girl is eventually adopted by Somer and Krishnan. They then take her back to the United States where she never feels quite like herself. She always feels like she’s missing something by not being with her biological parents. She eventually decides to journey to India to write an article on the slums of India (at this point, the book jumps forward 20 years). This is where the little girl, aptly named “Asha,” meaning “Hope,” begins to realize who she really is. She realizes that Somer tried to accept her for who she was and even after she finds her biological parents, she realizes that just knowing that someone did want her and wanted her to be safe is enough for her.

Next comes the ending… This is the part that I wasn’t particularly happy with. Asha does not actually ever meet her biological parents. She finds where they live and learns that they had a biological son and chose to keep him. She, understandably, becomes upset and decides not to pursue any sort of relationship. She eventually comes to the realization that her birth mother did what she did to protect her. She never actually meets them and simply leaves a note with the orphanage in case her biological parents ever come looking for her. I think I may have forgot to mention that Kavita never actually told her husband that she gave Asha to the orphanage – She just tells him that Asha died in her sleep when she was 3 days old. Eventually, Kavita becomes very ill and simply begins muttering “Asha… Shanti…. Asha” over and over again (Shanti was the name of the orphanage). Her husband eventually hears the story from Kavita’s sister who accompanied her to the orphanage and goes to the orphanage to try to find their daughter for his wife. They never actually meet, but he does get the letter that Asha left for them. The book was great up to this part and to the very last page. The most disappointing part of this book was the letter that Asha writes. All that the author writes is “My name is Asha…” That’s the whole letter! They leave the rest up to the reader. I could imagine some things that she would write, but there’s still so much more that could have been done there. She could have written a letter telling them about herself and saying that she forgives them and that she feels the choice was the right one for her, but the reader gets nothing. *Sigh*…

Overall, the book was quite good. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me smile. All qualities of a truly good book. I would recommend this to ANY mother in the world. Even any woman perhaps. It is definitely a female-centric novel, but I feel that some men would appreciate it as well. It really shows some of the things that women go through and gives perspective on how women feel as mothers. Unfortunately though, I doubt that any men would read past the first few chapters simply because of the details regarding Somer’s miscarriages and the description of why she can no longer become pregnant at the age of 30. I also doubt that many men would be able to understand the heartbreak of experiencing a similar condition. Then again, maybe I’m not giving them enough credit. My only problem is that I don’t see this book appealing to any men that I know. Despite this, Secret Daughter comes from me as a highly recommended book and I will definitely be keeping my eyes open in the future for any books written by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Reading “Secret Daughter” was time well spent!

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