Secret Daughter [Book Review]

January 26, 2018

What would you risk to ensure that your newborn daughter has the right to live?

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (cover) Image: a young mom and daughter stand on a beach with backs to camera overlooking a body of water one arm around the other

Genre/Categories/Setting: contemporary fiction, adoption, cultural heritage, family life, mothers/daughters, Asian, Asian American, India

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Brief Summary:

Secret Daughter is a compelling story of adoption from three perspectives: Kavita, the mother who gives up her newborn daughter to an orphanage in Mumbai in hopes of saving her daughter’s life; Somer, a heartbroken, newly married physician in San Francisco who, upon hearing the news she cannot have children, decides to adopt; and Asha, Somer’s adopted daughter from Mumbai, India.

Amazon Rating: 4.6 Stars


Today, I’d especially like you to meet Kavita, a young, poor mother in India traveling on foot to an orphanage in Mumbai and making a heartbreaking choice to save her newborn daughter’s life by giving her away. Her husband, who is hoping for a son, killed the first-born daughter, and Kavita is determined to save her second daughter’s life. She makes a difficult decision and risks everything to give the only gift she can give her daughter, a chance to live. Without a doubt, Kavita is a compelling and memorable character.

Although there is an abundance of strong women in Secret Daughter, I couldn’t stop thinking about Kavita and the hardships she faced and the bravery and determination needed to put the daring plan of saving her newborn daughter into action. She risked her life, and then was faced with living with that decision for the rest of her life, wondering if she had done the right thing. What would any of us have done in similar circumstances? Giving up her infant daughter was only one of the hardships Kavita faced in her life as she struggled to care for her family and trust her husband with their future.


Honorable mention for incredible and admirable women in Secret Daughter goes to Asha’s gracious grandmother from India who worked tirelessly to welcome and embrace Asha, to unite the family, and to help Asha appreciate and understand her birth culture. She reminds me of the important and endearing role that grandparents can play in a family.


Poignant themes include survival, sacrifice, friendship, infertility, adoption, cultural differences, acceptance, hospitality, unconditional love, reconciliation, searching for answers, understanding the past, grief and loss, and mother/daughter/grandmother relationships.


This engaging and heartfelt story is similar in themes to Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See and highly recommended for readers who enjoy inspirational stories of strong women, for readers whose lives have been touched by adoption and would benefit from exploring it from different perspectives, for readers who appreciate how reading about a different culture can add to our understanding of the world and build compassion for the hardships that women around the world might face, and for those who are looking for a compelling page-turner. Secret Daughter would make an excellent book club selection for its various discussion possibilities.

If you are an “own voices’ reviewer, please leave a link to your review in comments.

My Rating: 4 Stars


Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (cover) Image: a young mother and daughter stand on the sand with backs to the camera and one arm around the other looking out over the water

Secret Daughter Information Here

Meet the Author, Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Author Shilpi GowdaShilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. In college, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage, which seeded the idea for her first novel, SECRET DAUGHTER. Shilpi 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 has served on the Advisory Board of the Children’s Defense Fund, and is a Patron of Childhaven International, the organization for which she volunteered in India. She lives in California with her husband and children.

SECRET DAUGHTER, Shilpi’s debut novel published in 2010, has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide in over 30 countries and languages. It was a New York Times bestseller, #1 International bestseller, and the screen rights have been optioned.

THE GOLDEN SON, her second novel, is a Target Book Club Pick and #1 International bestseller, being published around the world in 2016-17. The screen rights have been optioned to Conquering Lion Pictures.


What are your reactions to hearing about a woman who plans to give up her newborn daughter to save her life?

Do you think it’s beneficial to read books that feature different cultures and address difficult topics such as adoption?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text


I indicated last week that I’d be reading Library at the Edge of the World (from my 2018 TBR list). I decided not to highlight it this week because I was a bit underwhelmed with the reading experience. I’ll provide a brief review here.

Library at the Edge of the World

Readers who love a character-driven story with a lovely sense of place, will likely enjoy this read. I prefer a bit more plot with my reading and I found myself becoming restless with minimal plot development. However, the writer is talented and the characters are well developed and interesting. By the end of the book, the plot picked up a bit and I was glad I stayed with it. This might be a good read if you’re looking for a gentle read for a time when you want something less intense. I also think readers from Ireland or those who have spent time in Ireland might enjoy this read. I do appreciate the strong themes of a community coming together for a purpose and of a woman rebuilding her life after a divorce and finding her voice. If you read and enjoy this story, there are two more books in the series.

My Rating: 3 Stars.


The Library at the Edge of the World Information Here

Looking Ahead:

My library hold (since November) has finally come in, and I’ll be dropping everything this week to buddy read (with my husband) the nonfiction selection:
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

Killers of the Flower Moon Information Here

I’m also reading an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety.

A Way Out

A Way Out Information Here (2/27/19 release date)

What are you reading this week?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.



  1. HI Carol– read this book a few months back and enjoyed it as well. The dynamics in the family rang true and it was a fascinating story. Also read her Golden Son book, that I thought was great!

      • So fun to read through your posts and see books we have in common, and find new ones to look for! (I’m a library book borrower– don’t buy too many books). take care.

      • I think we do have lots of reading titles in common! I also borrow from the library….the digital option so I can read on kindle. I also look for good prices on amazon for kindle (the Modern Mrs Darcy website puts out a daily kindle deal newsletter). Are you on Goodreads?

    • It is a good read! Happy to hear you enjoyed it Pearl! I struggled with the mom! In the end she came through but I was frustrated with her for most of the book!

  2. We discussed Secret Daughter in our book club a couple of years ago. It was a little too light-hearted for me, especially considering the subject but we had a great discussion because it mentioned so many subjects. Glad you liked the book.

    • Thanks for sharing! I remember not liking the adopting mother! For me, she was the weakest part of the story. But it’s a highly discussable book for book clubs!

      • That is what most of our members said, as well, and for a book club book, that is the most important.

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