Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.
This is the story of two mothers and one daughter. It begins in a small village in India. The year is 1984. Kavita a young bride is in labor. In a country were the birth of boys are favored, Kavita can only watch as husband, Jasu takes away her daughter. No one speaks of the daughter that is taken to her death. Kavita will not lose another daughter this way. Somer is a doctor and happily married to Krishnan (Kris) also a doctor. The two live in San Francisco. Somer has everything she wants in life, expect a child. When we first meet Somer she's having another misscarriage. For much of the book the story alternates between the voices of these two women. I loved the beginning, it really pulled me in.
When Kavita has another daughter, she sneaks off to the capital of India with her sister. Kavita risks everything to take her daughter to an orphanage. Kris convinces Somer the best thing they can do is adopt a child from his home country of India. The two adopt Kavita's daughter. Asha is 1 yrs old when she makes her way to her new country.
Once I started reading Secret Daughter, I didn't want to stop. As Asha grows older, we see how both families lives differ. Kavita finally as a boy. Jasu moves the family to Bombay. Kavita misses the daughter she never knew. Kavita has the daughter she always wanted to and she's too scared to let Asha explore her Indian heritage for fear of losing her. Asha is in college when she first returns to her home country of India.
Its the strength of the beginning that makes this a successful debut. It middle felt a little rush as if the author wanted to quickly get to the part where the main characters lives might cross. IKavita and Somer were nice characters with clear voices. Though, I wish they were developed them a tad more. This was made more difficult when chapters were given to the husbands. It thinned out the possible character growth of Kavita and Somer.
I didn't like the ending as much as I would've liked, I thought Kavita got cheated. She gave Asha the only thing she could, life. If Kavita could have, she would've given more but it wasn't her choice. So I really felt for Kavita in the end. I found Somer's fear of losing her daughter a little frustrating at first. By the end I realized these were realistic fears of some adoptive parents.
Secret Daughter is a good novel and well worth reading. Part of the reason why I wanted more from this story is because I think the author has it to give. Gowda is a gifted storyteller.
At the naming ceremony for Kavita and Jasu's son - "Everyone cheers, repeating the name to one another. Somewhere in the noise of the crowd, Kavita hears a lone voice, an infant's piercing cry. She looks at her son, who is sleeping. Her eyes dart around the room, trying to find the origin of the cry, but she sees no other babies. Jasu places the baby in a cradle decorated with garlands of bright orange marigolds, white and red chrysanthemums, and begins to rock it from sided to side. The other women in the room slowly come forward and surround them. Kavita is engulfed by their signing voices but even this cannot drown out the high pitched cry she still hears. For a moment, she is struck with the disturbing thought that everything in her son's life might be bittersweet for her."
There's something great about catching an author at the beginning of their career. I will definitely be keeping my eye on Shilpi Somaya Gowda.