Shilpi Somaya Gowda
In India, 1985, Kavita must give up her baby daughter in order to save her life. In the village she lives in, daughters come with the high price of a dowry, and a poor family needs sons to work. Therefore, daughters are often put to death. Having lost one daughter before, Kavita can’t bear to have another die, so she and her sister travel to an orphanage and give the baby up. Meanwhile, American doctors Somer and Krishnan desperately want a child, but Somer’s early menopause prevents her from conceiving. This novel tells the story of Somer’s adoption of Kavita’s child, the effect giving up her baby has on Kavita’s life, and Kavita’s secret daughter’s quest to find her birth parents.
I thought Secret Daughter was very well-written and I enjoyed seeing the story from Kavita’s, Somer’s, and later the daughter, Asha’s, perspectives. Gowda explores interesting questions of what family and motherhood mean both in terms of Asha’s being accepted by her adoptive family and in terms of Somer’s struggle with having an Indian husband and daughter while she herself is white and therefore feels like the odd one out.
I wish the ending had been a bit less open-ended. I was so invested in these characters I wanted to experience Kavita and Asha’s reunion. I am not even sure if the two ever met. I found this very disappointing after leading up to it throughout the novel. Ending aside it was still an engaging read.