On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter's life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.
Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.
Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both of their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love, as witnessed through the lives of two families—one Indian, one American—and the child that indelibly connects them.
This story spans the time from 1984 to 2009 and is a beautifully written book. Most of the chapters are told from the viewpoints of the three main females - Kavita, Somer and Asha. I found that telling the story in this way provided a deeper insight into each of the characters and enabled me to feel a connection with them.
Kavita is the mother who gave her daughter up for adoption as she did not want her husband to "get rid of" another baby. Kavita knew that she could not live knowing that another child of hers was killed as they lived in a society which saw daughters as burdens and if they could only afford one child, then that child should be male. Kavita secretly named her daughter Usha (meaning Dawn) and travelled on foot a long way to take her daughter to an orphanage where she would at least have a chance to live and hopefully, have a better life.
Somer is an American doctor who is married to a Neurosurgeon who is Indian. After finding out that she will be unable to bear children, her husband mentions that perhaps they could adopt a child and suggests an orphanage in India where his mother is a patron. It is a long process but they are finally successful and bring their daughter Asha (meaning Hope) back to America with them when she is a year old. Somer devotes herself to Asha and changes her career goals in order to be more present in Asha's life.
Asha finally gets to go to India when she is 20 on a journalism scholarship and learns a lot about her father's family and also tracks down her biological parents. Asha comes to the realization that her adopted family is really her true family who loves her. She learns to appreciate her mother more and has her eyes opened to what her life could have been like had she never been adopted.
The Secret Daughter: A Novel is a testament to mothers everywhere as it shows how, even in India, where the women sometimes take a back seat, the women are truly the backbone of the family as Shilpa Somaya Gowda stated "if the mother falls, the whole family falls". I found it interesting how each of the characters viewed India in a different way but in the end, it brings everyone closer together.
It is a deeply moving story and I would highly recommend this book.
Rating 4.5 out of 5