Book Review: ‘Secret Daughter’ by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I love to read books about other cultures and ‘Secret Daughter’ provided me the opportunity to learn about the country and people of India. The author tells us the story of two unrelated families tied together by the invisible braid of adoption.

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The first family is incredibly poor and from a rural village of India. Their struggles with farming in a slow economy force them move to the city of Mumbai. The author shares their challenges as they unintentionally land in the slums and attempt to work their way out through factory and maid jobs, accidents, scams and illiteracy.

The second family is comprised of two physicians in Los Angeles, California and follows their grief through multiple miscarriages and infertility. Eventually, they decide that international adoption is in their future. The father, though born and raised in India, now considers America his home – a country he came to for the educational opportunities and lure of adventure.

The child, Usha and Asha (as she is known by each family) grows up in L.A. with all the privileges of American upper-class life; education, regular meals and financial security. And like many adopted children, she always wonders about her birth country and her birth parents. At the age of 20, she returns to India to find herself, meet her father’s extended family and hopefully find her birth parents. Throughout her stay, Asha discovers both the beauty and harshness that India offers its women.

Gowda’s characters are real – I was kept hopeful throughout the entire book. They are flawed – as a reader; I suffered with some of their choices and applauded others. They are compassionate, each hoping that misunderstandings will be short and forgiven, but not always knowing how to fix them. The descriptions of India’s traditional meals in ‘Secret Daughter’ are absolutely mouthwatering and provide a common thread about which women bond – time spent in the kitchen together, no matter the country. Through her stories of food, spices, meal preparation, suffering and achievement their parallel stories unfold in beautiful ripples. Mothers, daughters, grandmothers, sisters and even cousins who grow up a continent apart are connect by love, obligation, forgiveness and curiosity.

In GoodReads, I gave this book 5 stars and that is hard to earn from me.

What is the best book you’ve ever read about mothers and daughters?

7 thoughts on “Book Review: ‘Secret Daughter’ by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

  1. I was so intrigued by your review I immediately downloaded this book and finished it in a week! Overall it was a great book and I love how all the main characters ended up learning a little more about themselves and their partners in the end. I was a little disappointed at how quickly the chapters seemed to move through time in the beginning but I understand why the author did it, the meat of the story was at the end while Asha was in India. I was also disappointed in not actually getting to read the letter Asha wrote to her birth parents. I am very happy that Somer ended up finding herself as well, I had trouble with her character because she seemed very depressed for the majority of the book. But similar to what you said, the author made it so easy to connect and feel the emotions of each characters, especially the mothers.
    This was a really great book, Holly. Thanks for the recommendation!


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