Secret Daughter , the debut from Dallas novelist Shilpi Somaya Gowda , is a story born of two young couples in the year 1984. From the Indian farming village of Dahanu, the teenage Kavita Merchant carries her newborn daughter, Usha, to a Bombay orphanage to save her from near-certain death (her husband, who wants a boy, killed their previous baby girl). Soon after, San Francisco doctors Somer and Krishnan Thakkar—a mixed-race couple unable to conceive on their own—fly to Krishnan’s native city to adopt the infant, newly renamed Asha, and bring her back to America. Twenty years on, Asha has grown into an Ivy League student, and she returns to Bombay to search for clues about her birth parents. The threadbare truth—a pair of names and a bureaucrat’s fading recollections—nonetheless sheds light on Asha’s conflicted identity as a multicultural child of privilege. Secret Daughter offers a sometimes formulaic take on complex emotions—Asha, predictably, plays the petulant teen to Somer’s overprotective mother—but its gentle rhythms seduce and win the reader over to this moving look at two faces of motherhood, oceans apart. William Morrow, $23.99
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