Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
IQ "After all, during the first thirteen years of my life, nobody defined me first as a girl-not even myself. That did give me a strange kind of freedom. I remember thinking I could do anything, be anything, go anywhere...Perhaps I should be grateful that I was able to become a person before I had to become a woman. Not every girl gets that chance. Still, it makes me sad, but I don't quite know why." Asha pg. 104-105
This review is going to be in letter form to the author. I sort of stole this idea from A Striped Armchair, hope you don't mind, Eva!
First here's some background on the book. Asha, Reet and her mother must go live with their father's brother and his family while their father travels to America to get a job. Times are hard in India. The country is going through political turmoil during the time of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and there also economic issues as well, making it nearly impossible for Asha's father to get a job. Asha is the "ugly" one in the family as she's skinny and even worse, dark-skinned. Her older sister, Reet is the light, beautiful one who receives many marriage proposals. Before Asha's father left, he told her to take care of her mother and sister and Asha takes this responsibility very seriously. However, months are going by with no letter from their father asking for them to move to America and their finances are draining away, they are becoming a hindrance to Asha's uncle and his family.
Dear Ms. Perkins,
I am writing to express my great love for Secret Keeper. You made 1970s India come alive for me, even though Asha, her older sister Reet and her mother rarely left the house of Asha's uncle in Calcutta, I was still able to get a clear picture of the social, political and economical situations of India during this time.
There's something I need to get off my chest:The Ending! How could you do that to me??!!!!!!!!!! The ending was excellent, don't get me wrong, I appreciated the lack of cliffhangers and having most of my questions answered. However, this is one book that I didn't want to have a realistic ending, I wanted a happy ending. I want to demand it's re-written to satisfy me, lol.
Other than that, I loved everything. I even loved the ending, albeit begrudgingly and I did tear up. I understand why Nathalie would want to have dinner with Asha, she's amazing. Asha is the younger sister but she acts the way an older sister should and the way a boy would (her mother never had any sons). Asha is brave, determined and is going places. She loves school, especially reading and she dreams of being a psychiatrist (I'm not a fan of psychiatrists, but I would definitely hire Asha to be mine!). She has impulsive moments, but for the most part she hatches out a plan and thinks it all the way through before implementing it.
The other characters were wonderful as well. The budding romance (if you can even call it that) between Asha and her next door neighbor, Jay Sen was wonderful to read about. Jay is so sweet and he helps Asha to realize how beautiful she really is. I must admit Reet annoyed me at times because as the older sister she should have stepped up more than she did. All the characters had many layers that you skillfully peeled away to expose their true selves. Even the seemingly awful Aunt had her moments. I got to know Asha's family as she too became reacquainted with them. I thought it was interesting how Asha and her sister refer to their mother retreating into depression as being taken prisoner by the Jailor. It's quite a true anaolgy and I sympathized with Asha while she struggled to free her mother from the clutches of the Jailor.
More than anything this book opened up my eyes to how good women of my generation have it. I don't think girls my age (high school and younger) understand how bad women were treated in the past. We had so very few rights and it was even worse to be a woman of color. Granted, this story does not take place in America so the situation could have been better in America than in India. The older sister must get married before the younger, women are not allowed to walk around after they have their period and once your husband dies, you must wear a white saree and give up eating meat. It wasn't fair, women had very little freedom and could hardly achieve anything. This book also brings up questions concerning family relationships, how much we should do for our families and how often should we place them before ourselves. I think this is a common thing among women not just back then but today as well. Women don't always put themselves first and sometimes they need to.
Thank you for opening my eyes to another culture, time and place in a story that is absolutely enthralling. My only regret is that I waited so long to read Secret Keeper, I was missing out. I fully intend on reading the rest of your books.
PS The one thing I couldn't visualize was the game of cricket. It essentially sounds like baseball so that's the image I went with :)