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Secret Daughter [Paperback]

Shilpi Somaya Gowda
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)

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Paperback CDN $12.26  
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Mass Market Paperback CDN $9.89  

Book Description

March 1 2010
In a tiny hut in rural India, Kavita gives birth to Asha. Unable to afford the luxury of raising a daughter, her husband forces Kavita to give the baby up - a decision that will haunt them both for the rest of their lives. 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 her husband Krishnan shows her a photo of baby Asha sent to him from a Mumbai orphanage, she falls instantly in love. Waiting for the adoption to be finalized, she knows her life will change, but is convinced that the love she already feels will overcome all obstacles. In a braided narrative that unites the stories of Kavita, Somer and Asha, "Secret Daughter" moves between the two families, one struggling to eke out an existence in Mumbai, the other grappling with the challenge of raising a brownskinned child from another culture, Gowda poignantly parses issues of culture, identity, and familial loyalty.
--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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“Gowda has masterfully portrayed two families... linked by a powerful, painful tie that complicates their lives... A thought-provoking examination of the challenges of being a woman in America and in India -- and in the psychological spaces in between.” (Chitra Divakaruni, author of The Palace of Illusions)

“Set in California and the teeming city of Mumbai, SECRET DAUGHTER is a beautifully composed compelling story of love, loss, discovery and the true meaning of family.” (Anjali Banerjee, author of Imaginary Men)

Fiction with a conscience, as two couples worlds apart are linked by an adopted child....A lightweight fable of family division and reconciliation, gaining intensity and depth from the author’s sharp social observations (Kirkus)

First novelist Gowda offers especially vivid descriptions of the contrasts and contradictions of modern India... Rife with themes that lend themselves to discussion, such as cultural identity, adoption, and women’s roles, this will appeal to the book club crowd. (Library Journal)

It’s moving and thought-provoking and informative and imaginative and beautifully executed. What a wonderful story! (Mary Jane Clark, author of Dying for Mercy)

The Secret Daughter is a deeply moving and timeless story of an adopted daughter’s long distance search for cultural identity and acceptance; first with the mother who raised her, and ultimately with the mother who gave her up. (Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter)

In her engaging debut, Gowda weaves together two compelling stories… Gowda writes with compassion and uncanny perception from the points of view of Kavita,Somer, and Asha, while portraying the vibrant traditions, sights, and sounds of modern India. (Booklist)

This wise debut moves deftly between the child’s two mothers and cultures. (Good Housekeeping)

A No. 1 bestseller in Canada, “Secret Daughter” tells a nuanced coming-of-age story that is faithful to the economic and emotional realities of two very different cultures. (Washington Post) --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Somer’s life is everything sheimagined it would be—she’snewly married and has startedher career as a physician in SanFrancisco—until she makes the devastatingdiscovery she never will beable to have children.

The same year in India, a poormother makes the heartbreakingchoice to save her newborn daughter’slife by giving her away. It is adecision that will haunt Kavita forthe rest of her life, and cause aripple effect that travels across theworld and back again.

Asha, adopted out of a Mumbaiorphanage, is the child that bindsthe destinies of these two women. Wefollow both families, invisibly connecteduntil Asha’s journey of self-discoveryleads her back to India.

Compulsively readable anddeeply touching, Secret Daughter isa story of the unforeseen ways inwhich our choices and families affectour lives, and the indelible power oflove in all its many forms.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
By Lydia - Novel Escapes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Every once in a while I want to read something other than chick lit and am always thrilled when I randomly pick up something wonderful. This novel wasn't recommended to us by anyone, rather, I liked the premise of the story, loved the cover and discovered while reading it that I loved the book as well! This beautiful story hooked me from the beginning and I've thought about long since finishing. It would make a wonderful Mother's Day gift for any of you stumped on what to get your book-loving moms.

In a remote village in India, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl, but living in a culture that favours boys, she is forced to give her up in order to save her life. Meanwhile, an American doctor, Somer, has found out she cannot bear children and she and her husband make the decision to adopt a child from his native country. They fall in love with the beautiful girl in the photo with the gold flecked eyes and bring her to America to raise, while Kavita's thoughts for the daughter she had to give away never diminish. Told from multiple perspectives and alternating between the two families and the daughter that binds them, this story weaves a rich tapestry of a mothers love regardless of circumstance.

There were multiple directions I thought this book might take and it didn't even stray close to any of them, so the lack of predictability was nice, so much so that I found myself feeling lost for a brief time in the 2nd half of the book, unsure where it was headed, but that only lasted a short time. This read wasn't the roller coaster ride I was expecting it to be, but much more subtle and when I came to the end and realized why things were happening the way they were, I was mesmerized by how powerful the story ended up being without my even realizing it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret is out... March 9 2010
By Nina
As a first novelist I'm impressed with the tapestry built around the main characters as their stories unfold and intertwine throughout two continents. A beautifully written story on personal and cultural identity.A great personal and book club read!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intensely emotional read! July 31 2010
By Steffy
This book was a great read. It had everything in it, excitement, twists, love, horror, despair, I could go on but you get it. The other reviews listed hit the mark for sure.

This is a well written story about a desperate mother who would go to any lengths to save her daughter in a culture where men control.
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54 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great beginning ... May 16 2010
The story synopsis for "Secret Daughter" immediately captured my attention, and I eagerly bought this book looking forward to a satisfying read.

The begining was riveting and sucked me completely into the tale. But, as it progressed I found the author's back and forth jumping between characters very annoying. This writing technique can be successful, but the reader is just settling back into one of the characters lives when Gowder finishes that snippet and switches again - sometimes a character has only 2 pages!

Shilpi Somaya Gowda writes well (I think this is her first book), and the story is a good one which needs telling, but personally I would have enjoyed the book more if she had stayed with each character longer and given us more depth before switching to another part of the story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More chronicle than story Oct. 29 2011
By Samantha TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book. I have a fondness for novels of India, but Secret Daughter has too many agendas, some of which are overindulged. The fact that Indians have more than a strong preference for boys is not a secret, nor is it just an Indian phenomenon. That adopted children often feel abandoned despite loving adoptive parents is almost cliche. The story of a child adopted to a different country/culture by an interracial couple is interesting and pertinent today; unfortunately, that story gets lost in all the other stuff, some of which seems completely random (e.g. entire chapters are spent on grandparents' deaths, who we, the readers, don't know or care about, and it reveals nothing about the other characters). When each chapter's heading includes the place, date and character name, it is not surprising that the writing is journalistic, flat. No nuance or subtlety. There is very little character development except for the biological mother but she gets lost in the second half of the book when the daughter is grown. While the daughter gets a lot of page time, she is more of a device to expose the problems in India than a fully fleshed out character. Unsatisfactory. I found myself wanting to finish this book quickly. Unfortunately, the ending was not worth my slogging.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good effort but rather uneven March 12 2011
I read this book for my book club. I found the book to have some interesting aspects about both biological and adoptive mothers' experiences of losing/adopting a daughter. What was intriguing to me was the part about Somer's insecurity of being a mother to her daughter from a different cultural background. However, even though the novel touches on interesting topics about international adoption and learning a new culture, the characters are not well developed. This left me feeling that the author had made assumptions characters that she created, I wished she had spent time exploring depths to their characters. Overall, I think it was a nice effort for the first novel but the results were rather uneven.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars satisfying and disturbing
Canadian first-time author Shilpi Somaya Gowda has written a compelling story that had me from the beginning. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Lynn A. Davidson
4.0 out of 5 stars Culture
This is a good story. The depiction of another culture and the inevitable adjustments (or not) of living in a different part of the globe was helpful in broadening one's... Read more
Published 3 months ago by A.E. Briggs
4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable
i read a fair amount of books and really enjoyed reading this book. when reading a story like this you learn about the beliefs in different countries that sometimes we do not... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mary Jane Amirault
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
Excellent and interesting reading! Bringing two very different worlds together. Could not put it down! Hope to read more of this author!!!
Published 6 months ago by M. Wiig
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely book
the writting was excellant and the outcome was even better... passed the book on when i was finished , they loved it too
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars great read!
I thought this was a great book. Very entertaining, great characters, wonderful descriptions (but not to the point of being boring). Read more
Published 7 months ago by Samiam
5.0 out of 5 stars Secret Daughter
Excellent book. A heartfelt story and the author made you feel like you could see and smell the sights of India.
Published 7 months ago by DWK
5.0 out of 5 stars secret daughter
Loved the storyline. Interesting to watch how different the lives were and how each turned out. I was surprised by the ending.
Published 9 months ago by Lynn Donnelly
5.0 out of 5 stars So good!
Couldn't put it down! Great story. Interested in reading more from this author. The ending is so touching, your gonna love it!
Published 10 months ago by jessie levy
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into Indian culture
A very poignant story of a mother ion India who had to give up her daughter in order to have her survive and contrasted tot eh heartache and struggle of a well to do Indian doctor... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Gerlinde Sarkar
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