Ms. Baldassi

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I believe that a book chooses its reader.  This was the case for me with, Secret Daughter, a work of fiction by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.   Secret Daughter is the story of two families, the Thakkars and the Merchants and how we can be connected to each other and not even know it.  It examines the feminine from a poverty-stricken rural India location and a wealthy American perspective.  It questions family and cultural values.  Finally, it details the struggles of parenthood from a mother’s viewpoint.

Kavita Thakkar’s first-born is female and because of the disgrace of this female birth her husband gets rid of this child.  When Kavita gives birth to a second daughter, she fears for her daughter’s life and steals away into the night bringing her daughter to an orphanage in Mumbai praying that she will have a decent life.  Somer Merchant is a successful American doctor who cannot have a child of her own and upon her husband’s suggestion they adopt a female child from his native India.

The novel spans twenty years in the lives of these two families and their children; examining the highs and lows of life from Somer’s struggle with trying to connect to her daughter, to her battle with breast cancer and her marital difficulties.  Kavita faces the challenges of raising a male child in the poverty of the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, as well as the constant thought of the daughter she gave away and the one that she lost.

This novel touched me deeply on many levels.  As a mother, I understood the love and constant worry that both Kavita and Somer experienced for their children.  As a daughter whose own mother is dealing with breast cancer, I connected with the shock and fear associated with this illness and with the questions we must answer when living with cancer on a daily basis.  I found the novel easy to read because I enjoyed the attention and detail paid to the female characters.  I found the descriptions of India so moving.  The male characters are very much secondary in this novel in that they are not fully developed characters, but I did not find this not to be a hindrance in my enjoyment of the story.  I think this is a must-read book.


Women who run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

I read the non-fiction book Women who run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés many years ago and yet it still stands out in my mind as a significant read.  This book examines folklore, fairy tales and dream symbols analyzing these through the teachings of Carl Jung.  It compares the fierceness and sense of community exhibited by wolves to that of women.  It examines stories from a variety of cultures, African, Middle Eastern to name a few, and illuminates the dual nature and I would say sacred nature of the feminine.

I found this book empowering and fascinating.  It forced me to examine my role as a woman and believe once again in the sacredness and connection among all living beings.

In essence, both of these books discuss the reality that we are all inter-connected and that we all possess an enormous strength and power.  I believe literature exists as a mirror to reflect all that we are, are not and can be.