Secret Daughter: A Novel

Secret Daughter: A Novel

by Shilpi Somaya Gowda


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“Moving and thought-provoking and informative and imaginative and beautifully executed.  What a wonderful story!”
—Mary Jane Clark


“This book is a must for anyone touched by adoption, or India, or the delicate dynamic between adolescent girls and their mothers.”
—Sujata Massey, author of Shimura Trouble


Secret Daughter, a first novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, explores powerfully and poignantly the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity, and love through the experiences of two families—one Indian, one American—and the child that binds them together. A masterful work set partially in the Mumbai slums so vividly portrayed in the hit film Slumdog Millionaire, Secret Daughter recalls the acclaimed novels of Kim Edwards and Thrity Umrigar, yet sparkles with the freshness of a truly exciting new literary voice.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061928352
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/05/2011
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 188,686
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Her previous novels, Secret Daughter and The Golden Son became international bestsellers, selling over one million copies worldwide. She holds an MBA from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She lives in California with her husband and children.

What People are Saying About This

Chitra Divakaruni

“Gowda has masterfully portrayed two families... linked by a powerful, painful tie that complicates their lives... A thought-provoking examination of the challenges of being a woman in America and in India — and in the psychological spaces in between.”

Mary Jane Clark

It’s moving and thought-provoking and informative and imaginative and beautifully executed. What a wonderful story!

Kathleen Kent

The Secret Daughter is a deeply moving and timeless story of an adopted daughter’s long distance search for cultural identity and acceptance; first with the mother who raised her, and ultimately with the mother who gave her up.

Anjali Banerjee

“Set in California and the teeming city of Mumbai, SECRET DAUGHTER is a beautifully composed compelling story of love, loss, discovery and the true meaning of family.”

Customer Reviews

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Secret Daughter 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 300 reviews.
TerriJ More than 1 year ago
I couldn't stop reading this book and finished it in two sittings, but the ideas it touches on will stay with me for far longer. There were so many ways I could relate to the characters in this book: the complexity of a marriage over many years, the daily sacrifices involved in being a good mother, the challenges of raising children/adolescents who have their own identity. I appreciated the way that each of the characters had their own flaws and weaknesses to overcome, and had to struggle to do so. I truly loved the ending: it was very authentic, but also very satisfying and uplifting. There is so much great material for discussion in this novel, it would make a perfect book club pick.
BusyWorkingMom More than 1 year ago
Shilpi Somaya Gowda has written a captivating first novel about the meaning of family, motherhood, adoption, the search for self and cultural identity. She tells the story of Asha from birth to early twenties through her own voice, that of her Indian biological mother, Kavita, and that of her American adoptive mother, Somer. The novel is thoroughly engrossing - I read it in two days. And yet the story, characters, issues and insights have stayed with me for weeks. Shilpi Somaya Gowda's writing is imbued with wisdom that defies her youth. She expresses some truisms of life so articulately that I found myself re-reading just to capture her phrasing. This book will speak to you if you are someone who has searched or struggled with cultural identity, if you are a mother, if you are a daughter, if you are adopted or an adoptive parent, if you believe in marriage, if you want to explore the meaning of family, if you are interested in India, if you appreciate honest explorations of poverty and wealth, or if you love to read. Somaya Gowda deftly touches on all of these without judgment or agenda. Secret Daughter is a story about people and the paths their lives take. The characters are real - interesting, flawed, and you care about them. At the same time, Somaya Gowda manages to paint an extraordinarily rich portrait of modern India - the sharp contrast between its poverty and wealth, its traditions and culture. Those sections of the novel seem painted in bright colors and I feel I've experienced something of India although I've never been there. This novel is delightful. It's one of those rare books that I'm willing to stay up all night for. I found multiple threads within it that touch my own life and the book is very thought-provoking. I highly recommend Secret Daughter and I recommend you read it with a friend, since you will be inspired to talk about it for some time to come.
cathy-in-tucson More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, it was very well written. It gave perspectives about adoption and I enjoyed reading about India and it's many facets...some wonderful and others not so much but a rich culture none the less. It is also a book that raises questions about fate and being born in the right place at the right time...and how culture enters into it all. It is compassionately written and gives all sides of the story. A very good read!
Page_Turner1 More than 1 year ago
This book was so well written that I'd definitely recommend to my friends. I enjoyed reading from beginning to the end.
MaryannT More than 1 year ago
As an employee of Barnes & Noble, I was able to read an advance copy of this book before publication. I could not put the book down and finally finished at 1 a.m. The author writes beautifully about the Indian culture, the realtionship between mothers and daughters and the strong bonds of family. I highly recommend this book. It would be a great choice for a book club.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderfulthat mkes you think about international adoptin i ways you never did before.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1984 in indigent Dahanu, India Kavita gives birth to her second daughter. She grieves what will happen to her child as poverty forced her husband Jasu to arrange the death of their first female baby. This time, however, Kavita names her infant Asha and gets her into a Mumbai orphanage so that she might have a chance. In San Francisco, Indian expatriate Krishnan persuades his wife Somer, who cannot have children, to adopt a child from his homeland. They go to Bombay where they adopt Asha although Somer fears their daughter will only bond with her father because they are both Indian while she is American. Meanwhile Kavita grieves for her two daughters, but finally gives birth to a son. Years later while at college in California Asha obtains a journalism fellowship that enables her to visits Mumbai. Interestingly the opening sequence that focuses on cultural gender issues in an abject impoverished environment are slow and lack the intensity one would expect with such a dynamic social concern. However, once Asha returns to India, the story line goes extremely deep into gender questions that haunt modern India as well as identity concerns that trouble the heroine who wonders whether she is Indian, American or Asian-American. Readers will appreciate this profound look at the value of girls when poverty rules. Harriet Klausner
buddysgirl50 More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and I feel it is a must read, The story is so well written and it lets you in on some of India's customs and rituals. And tell the story of the forgotten children of India
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was enjoyable and enlightening. There was information that I was unaware of before. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was an excellent escape into the Indian culture. The author was able to capture the essence of India while telling a wonderful and poignant story. It evoked emotions and encouraged thoughtful insight.
Liz154 More than 1 year ago
I don't normally write book reviews but this one was worth my time! The book started off slow and I was somewhat disappointed by the fact that it did not develop Somer, Krishnan, or young Asha (as she grew up) very much but as Asha got older, the story zeroed in on her and Kavita and it was a real page turner. The closeness and love of Asha's extended family was so well written I could feel it. The contrast of the elaborate indian wedding and poor slums was riveting. Great debut. I can't wait to read more from this wonderfully descriptive author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book on two different cultures that tells of how two mother's share one thing in common, a daughter.
demsc More than 1 year ago
Fantastic Book that was reality
Luv2Read49CS More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. The author did a nice job of incorporating the Indian culture into the tale. I kept anticipating how the daughter was going to find her birth mother. I could also identify with the adoptive parents. I would recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book that weaves two stores well
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Secret Daughter by Shipli Somaya Gowda is a story of two women dealing with two completely different problems and lives, and how this brings them together. Somer is an American woman married to her Indian husband, Krishnan. She cannot have kids, but she and her husband both would love to have a child of their own. Kavita is an Indian growing up in the slums of Dahanu. In the beginning of the book, she is pregnant with her second child. She prays that the baby will be a boy, but unfortunately it is girl. Her prearranged husband, Jasu, threatens to kill the baby as he did with the first girl, but Kavita saves her and gives her up for adoption. Somer and Krishnan adopt the baby from the orphanage and name her Asha, but will feel as though their child is missing something from her life. Throughout the story, each chapter explains the journey of these two almost opposite families, but how they are so close together. When Asha grows up, her curiosity for her biological parents brings her to India, but also tears her family apart. Kavita and Jasu also have problems with their family and have to learn how to adjust to such a terrible life style within the slums of India. The major theme of Secret Daughter was to accept and learn the backgrounds of family and friends. Gowda demonstrated this theme through her emotional and picturesque tone in her story. Kavita and Somer must accept who they are and where their families are from, no matter how hard this may seem. In the concluding part of the story, each woman finds some closure through Asha and understands who each person in her life is to a much better extent. In Secret Daughter, I liked how each chapter was told from a different point of view. It made the book a very quick read and easy to relate. It was also very interesting to see how closely related each character was, yet how far apart they were from each other. The author created a story so easy to relate to, even though it is drastically different from my life. I did not like how abruptly the end of the book came. The author did not explain what happened to each character after the story very well, and left many unanswered questions. This book is a great read because it is a great insight to what the adoption processes are like and how poorly some people live in the slums of India. The book is very gripping and hard to put down because of the many different viewpoints in each chapter. Although the story is fiction, the reader can feel very educated about the life in India and how each woman in the story deals with the issue of missing a daughter or mother in their life. After reading Secret Daughter, I would also recommend reading Three Cups of Tea as it has a similar topic and is interesting to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved learning about Indian culture, loved the message that as mothers, biological or otherwise have the same fears and desires for our children. I wish the story went on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book to chat about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book ~ kept my interest, read it in 2 days
Laura Skinner More than 1 year ago
Great story...I loved learning about Indian culture
kathy6829 More than 1 year ago
Excellent book - While one of the reviews said that "shifting pints of view" weakened the story I found it to be quite the opposite. Looking forward to her next book - whatever that will be.
Latasha Harris More than 1 year ago
I learned so much about the indian culture. I cold not stop reading this book until i finished reading page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is very engaging. I had a hard time putting the book down. This books gives you a perspective on adoption from the point of view of a child who is adopted and parents who have adopted a child. Also a mother who has given up a child for adoption. Great read. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I learned so much about Indian culture. Very well written!
Minnie43 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. Very easy ready and interesting facts about the country. At many points I couldn't put the book down. A very good summer read