Double Book Review: The Secret Daughter and The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Double Book Review: The Secret Daughter and The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Today, I'm bringing you two book reviews from books that I read quite a few years ago. The first is Secret Daughter, a debut novel as well as The Golden Son by author Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Both of these were 5 star reads for me, and I had previously reviewed them on my book blog. I decided to rewrite the posts and bring you a double review. Often we see new releases being reviewed, but you don't see that many backlist titles being reintroduced to readers. I have years of old blog posts, I'd like to work on and freshen up and I'll probably work on posting some of my favourite books I read.

The Secret Daughter opens with Usha born in a country where daughters were seen as a burden. Sons help in the fields and stayed with the family, daughters, on the other hand, are married off, and a dowry needs to be in place. In the case of a poor family, a daughter is not essential, a son is. A daughter is expensive and not cherished. Usha's mother Kavita gave birth in a little hut and was very excited to see that she had given birth to a beautiful, little daughter. When she showed her husband the baby, he scowled and walked away with the child. Kavita never saw her daughter again. The innocent baby had no chance at life, her little body was disposed of. When Kavita becomes pregnant a second time, she hoped and prayed that she would have a son. She could not possibly go through the same ordeal a second time. After giving birth to a second daughter, she was distraught and refused to have the baby killed. She pleaded with her husband for one night alone with the baby. In the middle of the night; sore, weak and saddened Kavita brought baby Usha to an orphanage a few hours away in Mumbai, hoping she will have a wonderful life. Usha becomes known as Asha when she is adopted by an American couple 10 months later. Asha's parents are a biracial couple, both doctors who met in medical school. Somer, an American is betrayed by her body when she learns that she will never bear her own children. Her husband Krishnan suggests that they adopt from his native country India. As soon as Asha comes into their lives, they fall in love with her and their world feels complete. As Asha begins to grow into a young woman, she seeks to figure out her backstory. She has never been to India, she hardly eats Indian cuisine, and she is different from her Indian friends. She's also doesn't look like her American friends. This is a story of family, and what creates a family. Life forces you to make choices in life, but the 'what-if's' still linger in our minds. Gowda keeps the reader guessing throughout the story.

A truly, riveting, amazing read. This book transports readers into a world of heartbreak, shock and life's unknowns. This is more than entertainment, this is a book that lingers in your mind long after you've put it down. This story spans Asha's 19 years of life. My heart broke for Kavita, she wanted what was truly best for her daughter, she was shunned by her husbands family for giving birth to two daughters. Her third child was a boy, but all his events were bittersweet for her. She could watch her son grow up, but her daughter who was just a bit older than her son was somewhere in the world. As she watched the children living in the slums, and the daughters prostituting themselves, she kept wondering if her daughter was amongst them. Somer and Krishnan tried to raise their daughter with the best of everything, they tried to keep India away from her, fearing the worst would happen if they brought her back. They wanted to Americanize her and show her a safer world. Asha, on the other hand, had her own intentions and convictions. She was on a search to find herself. I loved that all the characters in this story did not play a victim role. All the characters did what they honestly thought was needed. This is a story of family and endurance. Gowda has also written The Golden Son and The Shape of Family. Secret Daughter was her debut novel that was hugely popular when it released.

The Golden Son is her second book, a coming of age story. Anil is the oldest son and his father’s “Golden Son.” Anil has always been expected to become a doctor, and when he decides to complete his residency in Texas, he has no idea how much his life will change. Anil becomes stuck between two worlds, constantly tipping back and forth. Being the oldest son, he has traditional demands that his mother won’t let him walk away from. He’s also living in Texas and realizing that he can’t completely leave his old life behind him. Life is not simple, and Anil needs to figure out what he wants in life.

Leena, a childhood friend of Anil’s chooses a traditional life, hoping for a comfortable life like the one she lived with her parents. It becomes very clear, very fast that her husband and in-laws are not what she expected. Her new life becomes a dangerous struggle, and her determination and strength are tested. A woman cannot just walk away from her husband, and face no consequences.

The Golden Son wasn’t a fast read, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Gowda’s writing is fantastic and engaging.  She forces readers to see the beauty of Indian culture, as well as the complexity of the traditions. I highly recommend this one for anyone who loves a captivating coming of age story. Gowda has become a "must buy" "must-read" author for me.  I have yet to read The Shape of Family, but I do have it on my "to be read" list, waiting for me to get to soon.

1 comment

  1. Oh my gosh, Secret Daughter sounds amazing. I have to read that!