Gowda, Shilpi Somaya "Secret Daughter" - 2010
One of the book club reads that I knew from the beginning wouldn't belong to my favourites. It already had a chick lit feeling to it when I read about it when it was suggested.
However, it did bring up quite a few questions that were discussed in the club, adoption, fitting into another culture, why are boys more desired than girls in certain part of this world. A lot of people adopt children from another culture when they can't have one of their own or for different other reasons. Some manage to give these kids a feeling that they still belong to both cultures, others don't manage to do this.
The whole story is told in a very superficial way, the way this little Indian girl grows up in her American family, without anyone really caring about the other. The characters were not described very well, they remained unrealistic and two-dimensional. It almost reminded me of a Bollywood movie with people breaking out into a song every other minute.
I would have preferred to read a non-fiction book about a subject like this, or one that is not as black and white. I know I am quite alone with my opinion because I usually research our book club books for our members and I found mainly praise and delight about this novel. Maybe I am too critical.
Some comments by our members (written down by someone else as I unfortunately had to miss this meeting):
A very easy read and the author did a good job in writing, being her first novel. We all felt it was a bit refreshing! A simple story where all the pieces were put together in an obvious way but a good springboard for discussions.
About the characters: We all were in agreement that Somer was a very selfish, self-absorbed and self- indulgent person and we all detested her! Kavita was totally unselfish and willing to go through so many sacrifices for the love of a child, her husband and her son. We all agreed that Chris, as a South Asian living in the US was so enthralled with this new culture that he failed to explain his own culture to Somer. Chris’s mother was the matriarch with patience, forgiveness, understanding and love for her granddaughter and her son. The difference in social status was so obvious to us. You’re either rich or poor and the two never meet.
Does having a child make you more a women in the eyes of the world?
How important is it to follow the norm?
Does the internet make a difference? People know more about corruption, human right atrocities and a whole different way of thinking.
It is hard for the Western culture to understand why the Eastern cultures see girls as a burden to society. In the Indian culture, they have to think of feeding, dowries, education, and divorce. Being a male in these cultures is just more economically sound to them because they can work and earn money for the family. How do we, as "Westerners", try to wrap our heads around this … we just don’t think the same.
We discussed this in our book club in March 2013.
From the back cover:
"Somer's life is everything she imagined it would be - she's newly married and has started her career as a physician in San Francisco - until she makes the devastating discovery she never will be able to have children.
The same year in India, a poor mother makes the heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter's life by giving her away. It is a decision that will haunt Kavita for the rest of her life, and cause a ripple effect that travels across the world and back again.
Asha, adopted out of a Mumbai orphanage, is the child that binds the destinies of these two women. We follow both families, invisibly connected until Asha's journey of self-discovery leads her back to India.
Compulsively readable and deeply touching, "Secret Daughter" is a story of the unforeseen ways in which our choices and families affect our lives, and the indelible power of love in all its many forms."