The Forbidden Daughter Paperback – Sep 1 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Bantwal (The Dowry Bride) shifts her focus from arranged marriages to the high stakes parents place on producing a male heir in contemporary India in her middling sophomore outing. Isha Tilak and her husband, Nikhil, are counting on their second child to be a son. But when an ultrasound reveals she's carrying a girl, an illegal abortion is proposed, both by Nikhil's wealthy parents and by Isha's physician, Dr. Karnik. Nikhil staunchly refuses and soon turns up dead, and Isha can't help wondering if he may have been killed for not going along with the abortion. Unfortunately, the dialogue is often flat and didactic ( Did you know that a conservative estimate puts anywhere between eight and ten million girls as either aborted or killed in infancy in the last two decades?), and the narrative shifts too late from ponderous exposition to almost page-turning suspense as Isha tries to determine who was involved in Nikhil's murder. Less time on the soapbox and more time getting into the heads of the characters would have helped. (Sept.) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. PreSchool-Grade 2–It all begins innocently enough, when Violet the dog drops a fuzzy green tennis ball down a prairie-dog hole on the title page. When it finally lands deep in the underground tunnels, dozens of little dogs are gazing at it with trepidation. The biggest prairie dog of all, the bully Big Bark, comes to take a look, but before he can get close enough, Pip Squeak runs up to the ball and exclaims, âIt's fuzzy!' âOooooooh!' gasped the other dogs. Soon, they all begin adorning themselves with pieces of lime-green fuzz, ignoring Big Bark's commands that they stop this foolishness. Prairie dogs come from all over to help themselves until the ball is plucked bare. War breaks out, leaving Pip Squeak feeling rather guilty for starting it all. While the embattled dogs collapse in exhaustion, Big Bark steals all of the fuzz, proclaiming himself king of the fuzz, which makes him an easy target for an eagle, who swoops down and grabs him. Pip Squeak rallies the others to come to Big Bark's aid. The marvelously rendered mixed-media illustrations, with vivid blues, earthy browns, and that luminescent green, capture the true fuzzy nature and greenish glow of the ball. As in the author's popular Tops and Bottoms (Harcourt, 1995), this book employs both horizontal and vertical spreads, effectively taking readers deep into the underground realm. A wonderful addition for storyhours, this title will be requested again and again.–Lisa Gangemi Kropp, Middle Country Public Library, Centereach, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Isha and Nikhil are stunned. The doctor is suggesting terminating the pregnancy because the child is not a boy! They are both aware that in the past boys had been much preferred to girls in Indian culture but are shocked that a modern doctor would be so nonchalantly suggesting an abortion on the basis of the baby's sex, which is against the law in modern India. They refuse, of course, but are deeply disturbed.
A short time later, tragedy strikes the Tilak family. Nikhil is found dead at the family business. It looks as if he was robbed and stabbed while he was in the process of closing for the evening. He was the only son in his family and his parents' grief is overwhelming. They start to take their anger out on Isha and her small daughter. They say the baby girl she is carrying is a curse on the family and was the cause of her father's death. They make it obvious that they think she should have had the abortion. Isha finds that she cannot continue to live with them and subject her child to their animosity. Despite the fact that she has nowhere to go, no status as a widow and no way to earn any money, she takes her daughter and leaves.
Thus begins Isha's journey to finding herself, finding out what really happened to her husband, and creating a future for herself and her two beautiful daughters. She surprises herself with her own strength and ability to adapt and grow despite the challenges that she encounters.
I really liked this book. The characters felt real, were interesting and well written and the story was engaging. Though the idea of using abortion as a means of sex selection is disturbing, I think the author right to bring it to light in this way. I look forward to reading future books by Shobhan Bantwal.
Shobhan Bantwal has a history of writing about controversial Indian subjects. Her first book, The Dowry Bride, was about bride-burnings in India; specifically, it was the story of a woman who wasn't producing children in a marriage and uncovered a plot by her mother-in-law to kill her so she wouldn't have to return the dowry (which she would have to do if there were a divorce). This second book is about female abortions and infanticide. These topics, while uncomfortable, do take place in India (female abortion much more so than bride burnings, if I am not mistaken), and it is important that people become aware of them. Bantwal writes her novels in a manner that is easy to digest and, while shocking, brings important issues to light. Her resolve to educate others is admirable.
The story of the novel, while a bit stilted in places, is sweet. We follow Isha's story and watch her develop from a pampered girl into a strong, independent woman. She is very human - guarded and careful, not quick to forgive others. Sometimes in stories of adversity, the protagonist is written as a superhuman, someone better than the rest of us. Isha isn't like that; she is very real and only does what she must do to protect herself and her children. The end of the story is a little crazy and unbelievable; one of the characters remarks that he feels like he is in a Bollywood movie. However, it is still an extremely worthwhile and enjoyable book.
Though the controversial subject of female infanticide doesn't receive much publicity in the United States, it is a real problem in India. It is now illegal in India for a doctor to discuss the sex of a child with its parents before birth, though as we see in The Forbidden Daughter, that doesn't prevent many doctors from doing it anyway. It is important to note that this isn't a general mindset - my parents, who are Indian, have two daughters and have always been more than thrilled to have us. While a reader shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that this is the mindset of all Indians, it is a serious and very heartbreaking problem.
The Forbidden Daughter is a wonderful story that defies genres. It is a daring book, bringing to light a problem that has been hidden just beneath the surface in India for quite some time. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in controversial issues, or anyone simply looking for an engaging story.
The main characters don't struggle ever, don't really grow. Oh Isha has to learn to be independent, but she doesn't really learn. Its oh, I have money, oh I'm quite a talented business woman, oh I have the perfect place for shelter. The love interest doesn't even grow, he goes from "too busy to work" to spending all his time with a woman he pined after in college. No, they didn't know each other back then, it's not a "second chance romance" its a, "the hottest girl in campus is now low enough to look twice at me" kind of romance. Which, I think, seems unrealistic and way too easy, like the rest of Isha's life.
The characters themselves are very one dimensional. Isha was a high-class socialite, but wait, she never really enjoyed society so having her friends and her wealth and everything that's been a part of her life being taken away from her doesn't matter. You'd think there'd be some adjusting period, going from a housewife in a mansion to a working woman living in a single-room convent, but no, she's just grateful. That's where the one dimension comes in, she's a saint, and does no wrong, she can't even think wrong. Not once does she have a dark thought or wish for her easier life back. To her, her darkest thoughts are romance while in mourning. I understand people may have these qualities, they may close their thoughts to such things, but to have the main character go through "so much" as the author wants you to believe, she has to write so that the character thinks its "so much" as well.
Isha's not the only one who's one-dimensional. I already mentioned how the doctor-love interest quickly goes from convenient bachelor (in a society where people are pushed to be marry no less) to being completely in love with this girl he pined after in college (oh there's other reason's as well, but he didn't learn of her personality until after he was already smitten so it feels like he just needs reasons). He himself is a saint, giving free services and taking so much time off to spend with the kids. The antagonist are the same as well. The grandfather feels no shame, and why should he? It's part of their culture, a girl can't run the shop. The author challenges this without really explaining it, or exploring it. The author racks up all the evils to culture without explaining why it's in their culture to begin with, why people still feel this way and why a woman would even believe it. She could have done so much with this topic, but took the easy way out. Furthermore, she has her younger characters ALL challenge it by stating the obvious, which, of course doesn't work. However, wouldn't it be more affecting to have the sister-in-law step up and run the family store to show their grandfather that girls can do it as well, to try Isha's hand out at manipulation or intelligent discussion (as oppose to wordless fits) to get the grandparents to come to her conclusions. I mean, the moral is, this happens, its bad, people won't change unless they're dying. Wouldn't it be interesting to see why Isha's (ex) friends would get gender-selective abortions, as we know they have. Seeing it from a younger persons point of view would be interesting, but the author doesn't even come close to this.
Anyways, I got so bored with this book I eventually put it down, I pushed myself through the majority of it, but between the poor writing, boring romance plot (I didn't even want), and terribly unrelatable characters, I wish I hadn't bought this book.