|NutterMother September Book Club: Secret Daughter|
I have to admit I had different expectations for Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s novel Secret Daughter. Granted I didn’t know much more than what I had read off the back cover, but I had made the assumption that this story would be a deeply woven tail about family life, past secrets and of course, India. And in all her efforts it was about these themes. However, this quick and easy read hardly held any real depth. Though the story was interesting enough and the plot moved along very quickly, it felt…well, actually, it had no feeling.
As the characters progressed throughout the story, and as they made life choices that would ultimately affect their familial relationships, I often wondered why any of it really mattered. The relationship between Krishnan and Somer (Asha’s adoptive parents) seemed shallow and disconnected from the start and the reason their lives were growing apart was over simplified, they just stopped caring.
(By the way, I could never fully grasp why Somer would marry and Indian man if she wasn’t open to exploring his culture or diversity wasn’t that what had initially attracted her in the first place? Apparently, we are lead to believe that she preferred only to be his tour guide to American culture and that’s where she drew the line…well, until she had a health scare, and joined a yoga class at the end of the story and they rekindled their romance… I guess she ‘gets’ his culture now…)
Asha, who spend her life knowing she was adopted distanced herself from her family not wanting to cause pain by seeking out the secrets to her identity, only when finally alone in India with her paternal family branches out to explore her independence and identity. Here’s we have the opportunity to explore the feeling of a ‘secret daughter’ but instead the author once again creates a series of quick resolutions to lifelong issues. (She meets a boy, develops her journalist career, and discovers the names of her birth parents and some vague circumstances around her birth, but she assumes they loved her all along and she finds piece).
The same even applied to Kavita, Asha’s birth mother, whose character spends the entire novel mourning the loss of her identity, the loss of three children, and the loss of her family. With all the possibilities of rich storytelling, Somaya Gowda yet again gives us another static character. Kavita simply lives her life through a series of events from her small town in Deshpande, to Mombai without really understanding her struggle beyond her daily rituals of mourning her losses.
There were so many opportunities to really explore who each of these characters where, unfortunately the way in which the author chopped up the storyline into little vignettes really hindered the reader’s ability to feel for any these characters. I always found once I really got into a moment, the chapter was finished and we had flashed over to another perspective.
In all truth, I didn’t dislike this novel. The story was…nice. And that was about it.
Maybe it’s just me; Somaya Gowda’s novel is receiving a lot of praise for its story, however, the entire I read Secret Daughter, I kept thinking, Rohinton Mistry would have done so much more with this.
To sum it up, Secret Daughter had so many opportunities to be a stronger novel, but it just wasn’t. I do recommend it; just get it from the library.
*Note to Self
If you haven’t already… read A Fine Balance