Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter : A Novel

3.97 (59,571 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Dispatched from the UK in 1 business day
When will my order arrive?


"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.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 132.08 x 200.66 x 20.32mm | 136.08g
  • HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • William Morrow Paperbacks
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • International ed.
  • 0061928356
  • 9780061928352
  • 29,555

Review quote

"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." -- Chitra Divakaruni, author of The Palace of Illusions "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." -- Anjali Banerjee, author of Imaginary Men Fiction with a conscience, as two couples worlds apart are linked by an adopted child....A lightweight fable of family division and reconciliation, gaining intensity and depth from the author's sharp social observations -- Kirkus First novelist Gowda offers especially vivid descriptions of the contrasts and contradictions of modern India... Rife with themes that lend themselves to discussion, such as cultural identity, adoption, and women's roles, this will appeal to the book club crowd. -- Library Journal It's moving and thought-provoking and informative and imaginative and beautifully executed. What a wonderful story! -- Mary Jane Clark, author of Dying for Mercy 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. -- Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter In her engaging debut, Gowda weaves together two compelling stories... Gowda writes with compassion and uncanny perception from the points of view of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, while portraying the vibrant traditions, sights, and sounds of modern India. -- Booklist This wise debut moves deftly between the child's two mothers and cultures. -- Good Housekeeping A No. 1 bestseller in Canada, "Secret Daughter" tells a nuanced coming-of-age story that is faithful to the economic and emotional realities of two very different cultures. -- Washington Post
show more

Back cover copy

Somer's life is everything sheimagined it would be--she'snewly married and has startedher career as a physician in SanFrancisco--until she makes the devastatingdiscovery she never will beable to have children.

The same year in India, a poormother makes the heartbreakingchoice to save her newborn daughter'slife by giving her away. It is adecision that will haunt Kavita forthe rest of her life, and cause aripple effect that travels across theworld and back again.

Asha, adopted out of a Mumbaiorphanage, is the child that bindsthe destinies of these two women. Wefollow both families, invisibly connecteduntil Asha's journey of self-discoveryleads her back to India.

Compulsively readable anddeeply touching, Secret Daughter isa story of the unforeseen ways inwhich our choices and families affectour lives, and the indelible power oflove in all its many forms.
show more

About Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. 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.
show more

Rating details

59,571 ratings
3.97 out of 5 stars
5 29% (17,288)
4 45% (26,597)
3 22% (12,820)
2 4% (2,365)
1 1% (501)

Our customer reviews

This book portrays the life of a poor Indian family at a time where girls were considered a Burden. It tells the story of the sacrifice of a mother in order to save her daughter and give her a chance at a better life. Cultural differences and struggles reflect in the life of one simple family. Loved itshow more
by mona abed algani
This book was a real stand out for me. Gowda has written a very powerful story, one that kept me enthralled the whole way through. And it certainly didn't end how I predicted. I thoroughly recommend this more
When Kavita goes to an abandoned hut to give birth, she does so hoping against hope that her new baby will be a boy. Her first baby, a girl, was taken from her by her husband Jasu and never seen again. In her poor farming village, a girl is a liability, no use in the fields and a drain on the husband's finances. When the midwife hears Kavita's labor pains, she comes to assist her ... deliver another baby girl. Kavita makes the midwife promise not to let her husband take the baby, then makes her husband promise to give her one night alone with the baby. She and her sister Rupa make the long, difficult journey to Mumbai to take the baby, whom Kavita named Usha (dawn) to an orphanage. At least there, Kavita knows her baby will be taken care of; it's the most she can do to keep her safe. Meanwhile, in America, Stanford-educated doctors Somer and Krishnan have been married five years when they have a miscarriage which leads to Somer's diagnosis of early menopause at 31 years old. As she and Krishnan cope with the news, they eventually decide to adopt. Kris's mother is a patron of the orphanage in Bombay, and they go through the long, involved process which eventually gives them their new baby, now named Asha due to an error in paperwork at the orphanage. This novel spans 20 years and interweaves the stories of Kavita and her family with those of Somer and hers. I didn't care for Somer at all, she comes across as a sniveler: wishy-washy, weak, and self-pitying, and honestly, if the story had been only about her, I probably wouldn't have wanted to keep reading. Kavita's story, however, is fascinating. She is a good woman who suffers through a difficult life and perseveres with hope. She never gives up on her "secret daughter", and as she eventually finds herself in the same city as the orphanage, she visits often, looking through the gate in hopes of catching a glimpse of the daughter she loved enough to give up. With glimpses of the lives lived in the slums of India, and of the hardships faced by women living in poverty there, contrasted with the lives of families like Krishnan's well-to-do circle, a much broader appreciation of India as a whole and the strength of it's people are readily found. As Asha's story comes full circle, Somer finally grows up, and as a reader, you feel pride in the woman Asha turns out to be. QUOTES Kavita is anxious, her stomach unsettled. She holds a protective hand over her swelling abdomen as they approach the clinic. Outside the door is a placard - SPEND 200 RUPEES NOW AND SAVE 20,000 RUPEES LATER - a transparent reference to avoiding the wedding dowry associated with a daughter. Somer has no time for the PTA and bake sales. She has no time for herself. Her profession no longer defines her, but neither does being a mother. Both are pieces of her, and yet they don't seem to add up to a whole. Somer didn't know that having it all, as she always believed she would, would mean feeling like she's falling short everywhere. Asha shudders involuntarily as she looks at this woman who lives in squalor, prostituting herself to survive. She has spent her entire life in this place. She has three young children, a drunkard husband, and little hope of a different future. She and Asha are the same age. Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars Plot: 4 out of 5 stars Characters: 3.5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars BOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 starsshow more
by Julie Smith
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X