Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
My sister knows my love for reading. She calls me from Georgia when she's shopping at her local thrift stores and allows me to shop for books. This is one of the books that came from my over-the-phone shopping in GA.
I consider this book to be an average read with an exceptional story. The writing doesn't mirror the storyline which keeps me from giving it 5 stars.
The story takes place between 2 families, one in America and one in India with 3 of the 4 main characters being Indian. Somer and Krishnan are an inter-culture couple who met in med school in America. Somer is American and Kris is Indian. Somer's first visit to Kris' home country, India, was to adopt their daughter, Asha. The story unfolds with the lives of Asha's biological and adoptive families and how being oceans apart isn't the only literal difference. The chapters are vacillating tales from each family.
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Indian culture entwined in the story. One of the reasons I enjoy reading as much as I do is because a good story can take me to places I would otherwise never be able to visit. This book took to me to India where I was able to vicariously experience both cultures of India...the poverty stricken culture as well as the wealthy culture. Living in America, I hear about other cultures such as India but books like this give a better understanding when it's tied to characters the reader is able to connect with. This book also taught me the unfortunate acceptance of infanticide and sex-selection abortions within the Indian culture. Due to poverty, girls are not wanted as children. Dowries and the cost of living are deemed a burden for families with girls. As a result, there are generational shortages of girls in the population. The daughters who do not become a victim to infanticide or sex-selection abortion become "secret daughters" in the adoption system. Most mothers simply leave their daughters at the doorsteps of the orphanages with no more info than the child's name, and even then, a name for her daughter is rare. India is not friendly to international adoptions so many of the girls grow up without a family and age out of the system around sixteen. Boys are desired because they can help earn money for the family and dowries paid to the family are considered an income for the future. Education for most of the impoverished families is minimal at best and doesn't particularly serve to improve one's future. The reader experiences all these circumstances through the book's characters.
There are a few mild curse words but it's not a common theme throughout. There are no sexual scenes nor innuendos. Issues that some may find sensitive within the story include: pregnancy loss, infertility, infanticide, abortion, adoption, poverty, religious gods, inter-cultural marriage, mild spousal abuse and women as inferior citizens.
I give the book 3 stars because the writing doesn't necessarily beckon you to read it but the storyline is one that any reader can be transported to another place in this world experiencing the culture. If you read for the mere aspect of learning, this is a great book and deserves 5 stars for this merit alone. But, as I mentioned, the writing and choppy chapters doesn't help the best cause of being a great book.