Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review of Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter was not a good start to 2011. I knew within the first couple of chapters that I was not going to like this book, but because I have such a hard time putting books down, I didn't.

Secret Daughter is about two families, one in India and the other in San Francisco. Kavita is from an impoverished town in the countryside of India and has given her daughter Usha up for adoption to prevent her from being killed at birth because of her gender (this is her second baby, her first, also a girl, was taken away by her brother-in-law, never to be seen again). She makes the trip to Mumbai the day after Usha's birth to save her by putting her up for adoption. She is adopted by Somer and Krishnan, a couple in California who cannot have children, and rename her Asha. (BTW, what the hell kind of name is Somer? That was also extremely irritating for me). But I digress... The plot is pretty predictable from here. Kavita goes on to have a son, who grows up to be a degenerate drug dealer, and she always wonders what happened to Usha. Asha grows up to resent her parents, fantasizing about her birth parents, and goes to India when she is in college to try and find them.

What bothered me about Secret Daughter was not the storyline (although I did not find it to be all that original), but Shilpi Somaya Gowda's writing - it was not very good. I found myself extremely annoyed by her writing style to the point that I had to stop and ask myself why it was bothering me so much. And what I realized is that Gowda writes how I write, which is fine. But it's not great. Or what I consider good enough to publish a novel, let alone the #1 bestseller in Canada. If I hadn't just read Through Black Spruce, I would have gone on some rant about how Canada's standards for good writing are not as high as they should be, blah blah blah. But Boyden did a masterful job, and Canadians recognized as much. So what's the deal? Why has Secret Daughter been such a success? My guess is that it appeals to the Oprah-watching 30 to 60 year-old demographic who just want an easy read with a plot that is simple to follow and somewhat compelling. And that's what this book was.


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