Wednesday, June 01, 2011
"Secret Daughter" --An Adoption Story, A Family Story, An Indian Story
Hi Meltingpot Readers,
I just finished the book, Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. Told from multiple perspectives, the story is about the life of a little girl named Asha. Asha was born in India to a peasant woman whose family did not place any value on females. Rather than have her daughter killed at birth, Asha's mom gives her to an orphanage where she prays a family will adopt her and love her. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a young White American woman with a promising future as a doctor and a loving husband discovers she can't have children. Can you guess what happens? Yes, the young doctor and her husband, who happens to be Indian, adopt baby Asha and we discover through the pages of the book how everyone's lives are inextricably changed.
I heard about this book from a good friend and was immediately intrigued by the story idea. The author is Indian and I anticipated an 'authentic' perspective on an often debated topic. I was not disappointed in that the author gave voice to the adoptive mother, the birth mother, the adoptive father, the birth father and Asha herself. We got to be inside of the heads of all of the people involved in this complicated family structure. In many ways, I found it to be a very enlightening novel, especially in hearing the voices of the Indian birth parents and their struggle with the cultural norms that encourage female infanticide, selective sex abortion and the basic devaluing of female life. Gowda does an excellent job at giving each character a unique voice and she doesn't paint anyone as villain or angel.
That being said, I wish the author had given us more of Asha's childhood experience. The story begins on the day of Asha's birth and ends with her finishing college. In between we get glimpses and pieces of high and low points of her life, but I really wanted to hear more about those in-between parts. On the one hand, this is supposed to be Asha's story, but because we have to/get to hear from all of these other characters in alternating chapters, I felt like the reader has to do a lot of filling in the blanks.
Overall, I found the book to be a compelling read. I finished it in about three days. The writing is solid and the descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of India had me yearning to book a trip to Mumbai as soon as possible. I would recommend Secret Daughter to anyone interested in Indian culture, adoption and/or women's fiction. Ultimately I think this is a story about motherhood and the sacrifices we make in the best interest of our children.
Has anyone else read this book? What did you think about it? Here are two reviews, one positive and one not so positive about Secret Daughter.