Blogger Book Club: Secret Daughter



Welcome to the second #bloggerbookclub! 

As I explained last time, this is not a review of Secret Daughter, instead it is my thoughts as I read through the book, shared similarly as it would be in a real live book club setting. I hope that you can read along and respond in the comment section. This is intended to be an interactive blog post - so feel free to reach out to others and react to their observations as well. If you want to follow along, be sure to hit "subscribe by email" under the comment box. This will only subscribe you to comments on this post. So excited to hear what you thought as you read the book this month!

The Prologue

I keep wondering who the man is. My best guess is Jasu comes around and it is him...so intrigued!


Part I

Kavita - As I read her story, I felt her pain as if my own insides were being ripped out. We were in the car, so I kept it together, but I wanted to heave and sob along with her. 1984, the year I was born -  it seems like such an uncivilized world. How can this have still be happening during my generation? How can it still be happening today? I am angry at the mid-wife...not that she has any other choice. I cannot imagine the journey she made, so soon after labor - what an incredible act of strength.

Somer - I immediately thought of my own friends struggling with various fertility challenges. I wanted to shield this book from them. Their pain is fresh, and Somer's ordeal is written in such a away that it still feels raw. The scene at the baby shower reminded me of my own blunder. I once told a friend I was "So glad at least you aren't pregnant too!" at a baby shower before I was ready for kids, having no idea she had been struggling for over three years. I still feel guilty, years later. I often wonder how people make the jump to adoption. I know that for many it comes naturally, they always have had a heart for adoption. But when it faces you as your only option to have a family, when do you put your dream of conceiving a child aside and accept adoption as your alternative?

Somer in India - I want to slap her, but also yell at Kris for not helping her transition better. Shame on both of them for keeping so much from each other both Kris in their early marriage, not sharing is culture, and Somer about her adjustment in India. They seem to have set themselves up for failure.

Kavita after her son is born - Jasu's sudden showing of affection is irritating, and yet Kavita seems to both acknowledge and accept this. Again, her strength as a woman astounds me.

Meeting Asha - She has been called Usha for over a year...you have known her as Asha for a few months - as adults why not just change and call her Usha? This was so odd to me.

When Somer and Sarla bathed Asha together, it seemed so hopeful of a bond between the two women to form...and then it all fizzled away. Again and again, I wanted Somer to be more open minded to India, especially for the sake of her daughter.

Somer's maternal instincts - no one ever braces mom's for how hard it will be, that not everything comes naturally. I can only imagine how this is magnified with adoption. No wonder Somer seems to flounder a bit. I wish she had a better support network.


Part II

Kavita, Jasu, and Vijay - moving to Bombay seems crazy. How do they not know about the slums? I understand that leaving will give them a better chance, but aren't they just leaving Jasu's parents to starve? Why did they stay? Why didn't they go home? How did Kavita deal with their circumstances? How does Kavita emotionally bring herself to visit the orphanage?

Vijay's wad of cash - my first thought is he is selling drugs - how am I so jaded? But wait, really, he is selling drugs right?

Somer and Kris - pg. 98 "Somer didn't know that having it all, as she always believes she would, would mean feeling like she's falling short everywhere." Whenever I read something like this in a book (the same with Bloom) my first thought is almost always, you mean I am not alone?! Someone else feels like they are failing too?

Kris - missing his heritage, I only blame him. He is the one that spent over 10 years ignoring it.

Asha's letters break my heart.

Her strength to want to write about a true story for her school paper is impressive - but it makes me wonder where she got this drive from (as both of her parents seem to be pragmatists)


Part III
Asha at College - I continue to be sad that Asha's strengths do not seem to be enough for her parents - but I suspect this is quite common in the US. It seems like college is when Asha finally had the freedom to start exploring her heritage.

pg. 157 Kris says "At some point the family you create is more important than the one you are born into." This seems like a pivotal point for Kris and Asha. Its a passing statement, but it carries so much weight. If only he would take his words to heart and invest more in the family he created.

When Kavita and Jasu return to find cops tearing apart their home looking for Vijay and his supply, I wonder what it must feel like as a parent. Defending your child because you want to believe the best, not willing to give into the doubt that they may be making horrible decisions. Again at the Diwali celebration with friends, inklings of Vijay's business once again creep to the surface.

Jasu's nightmares, are these about Vijay, or the daughters he lost?

When Somer walks in on Asha "packing" - reading the letters to her mother and holding the bangle, I desperately want them to hash it out. I want to scream for Somer to share her worries, to bring these two women some understanding before they part for a year. But they both seem too stubborn.

Asha seems so welcomed by the family in India, it doesn't seem as though Somer was as welcomed. I am grateful for Asha that she has girl cousins to take her under their wing. Particularly as they prepare for the family wedding. On page 203, Asha "chronicles the day's events...the food may be spicy, the clothes uncomfortable, and the beauty treatments painful...starting to feel like home."

I appreciate the author's continued and subtel references to the disparity between recorded births of girls vs. boys.

I am again struck by Somer's stubbornness in her separation from Kris; her woe is me attitude. When really, she has very little in life to be complaining about. Her character continues to be a stark contrast to Kavita.

Sanjay. Sanjay, sanjay, sanjay. I have so much to say about you, but I will leave it for my concluding thoughts.

Dharavi - Each scene in Dharavi leaves me realizing that I cannot understand how deep the poverty is. The visual that comes to mind are scenes from Slumdog Millionaire. (don't judge me for admitting that?) or Occupy Wall Street camps. Other than these two images, I have never seen anything that would resemble Dharavi, not even on my trips to other developing countries.

Jasu and Kavita, I am amazed that they are still in Mumbai. After all of their hardship, it is incredible that they did not retreat home to their family in the village.

Jasu pours his heart out in the chapter Only One Regret, and becomes a character I can sympathize with once again. His hard edges are erased by his acknowledgement of Kavita's strength as the buoy for their family.

Asha and Dadima's morning walks reminded me of time spent with my own grandmothers. I hope that my own children grow to see their grandparents as sources of wisdom and experience - and that time with them should be cherished. There are roles that grandparents play that parents cannot, like Dadima's support for Asha finding her birth parents.

While I appreciate that the book focuses on the strength of women, I want to hear more about Dadaji - it as almost as if Dadima is the only person Asha is living with.


Part IV
Asha'a search for her birth parents overwhelmed me a bit. I don't have coherent thoughts on this. But I was curious as to why the taxi driver did not want to go to Vincent Road at that time of day. And were Kavita and Asha in Mahalaxmi Temple at the same time? The roller coaster of emotions Asha went through was gut wrenching, but I am glad she settled on the conclusion that her Mother loved her enough to give her away.

The reunion between Somer and Kris seemed so natural. So glad Somer travels to India with Kris - it feels like her last chance to save her family and it is about time!

Why didn't anyone call Asha to tell her to come home when Dadji passed away? And why did Dadima insist Asha light the pyre? Again, I am wishing Dadji's character was further developed.

Asha seems to have accepted her adoptive parents for who they are, taking Kris to a traditional Indian street food restaurant and Somer to and Italian restaurant. This contrast seems so important in understanding their cultural differnces.

I was correct is suspecting Jasu was the man in the prologue - but why, oh why did it take Jasu and Kavita so stinking long to finally discuss their second child. I am grateful for the closure Kavita must have had that her daughter was successful and still came looking for her.

I wish I knew what Asha's letter said, but how wonderful that they saw her work in the Times?



Concluding Thoughts
I loved this book. I would love to see it as a movie, and I very rarely think that about books. I wish there was better character development of the males, but that would be another 300 pages. Mostly I wanted to see more of Sanjay and Asha's relationship. In fact, I would love a second book about Sanjay and Asha. Please!

Also, Whitney (who I started this book club with) sent along this post about a fellow blogger who just returned from a trip to India - perfect timing for complimentary reading!

+ + + + +

September Book: A Gate at the Stairs 
more details will be coming soon in the side bar!

11 comments:

  1. I'm nervous to be leaving the first comment, especially so, since this is my first comment ever. Anywhere...

    I really loved this book too. I loved the strength seen throughout the book and the sorrow - overcoming the sorrow.

    It was scary to see Somer and Kris drift apart in their marriage, actually I wonder if they were ever really that close in the first place. But scary still because I do not want to settle into a similar pattern in my marriage where the energy centers around the kids and not around the love between my husband and I.

    I have never moved, not since I was little, so moving away from family to pursue a 'better' life, I cannot imagine it. I praise their strength and courage to jump into a new adventure!

    And I too would love to see another book to develop the relationship between Asha and Sanjay. As well as watching Somer and Kris grow back together AND finding a way to keep Asha and Dadima growing close together while being miles apart.

    Great book, thanks for hosting this bookclub!

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    1. Hooray for commenting Carri! I am so glad you did. So I am dying to know...did you read this book specifically for this book club?

      Growing complacent or even bitter in marriage seems like such a steep cliff. It is terrifying. How do we even begin to fathom what continuing to build a marriage looks like over 18+ years of raising children and then still loving eachother just as much on the other end?

      And yes, I would love to see Asha and Dadima grow closer together.

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    2. Carri--I echo your concerns about growing apart in the marriage. It seemed to happen to Kris and Somer before they even realized it! Although I guess he was hiding a whole part of his life from her, and then decided he wanted to embrace it and left her in the dust, all while she was resisting joining him.

      And I also find it funny that he moved so far from a family that he was seemingly very close with, but didn't really stay in contact. I can't imagine either--but my parents are only 15 minutes away, try as I might, I can't pretend they don't exist :)

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    3. Yes I did! I am planning on suggesting it to my face-to-face bookclub too. However, your insight on wanting to shield parts of this book from women who are struggling with some of the issues makes me hesitant. It's a delicate balance...

      I think that grandparent relationships are so special! I am blessed to have all 4 of my grandparents alive and active. I remind myself all of the time to make it a priority to keep them in my lives. They do not live far away, however it is hard to find the time to visit. Both sets do have email accounts that they use, it's pretty amazing!

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  2. I loved this book so much. When I initially had heard about it, I expected to have my eyes opened to a new perspective of the adoption world, but I didn't expect to become so attached to so many of the characters.

    My favorite theme in the book that is so subtle that I didn't really recognize until you and I were chatting about it, is the strength of women. Kavita is so strong throughout the book, despite being born into a social role that is so restricting. Her silent support of her husband is hard to understand, especially when it comes to giving up her daughters, but as the book continues, you learn to see things from her perspective.

    I loved how the author wrote Somer. I was attached to her at the beginning, feeling her pain at not being able to have a child, then I grew distant, as she made choices I didn't agree with (as did Kris), but then she grew on me again. I wish that she had seen the light earlier, but it made me very happy that they get back together and came to a better understanding of each other.

    I am dying to know what happens with Sanjay! I need Secret Daughter #2.

    And I can't wait for the next book, I am loving this book club.

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    1. I also had a hard time relating to Somer at some points in the book. I kept thinking, this is your DAUGHTER!! Support her, love her, do not waste the precious time you have with your child!

      And yes, the strength of the maternal presence in a world where men rule. To remind yourself that you do have power, even if it's just the power of your own thoughts, that is a good mantra! Amazing!

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    2. I know, I felt like so much time was wasted betwen Somer and Asha--we didn't know much about Asha's childhood, just that Somer felt disconnected while raising her. I wish she had sought out support or friends that would have made it easier. Sigh.

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  3. Oh I love this book. This was my second time reading it, and it still moved me similarly as it did the first time. I feel like the characters are so complex. I HATED Jasu for the better part of the first half of the book. But when he stopped and helped that blind girl? My heart broke. It broke because those are the kinds of men this world needs. That he was such a good man, and I had spent so much time hating him.

    I felt similarly about Somer. There were so many times when I wanted to SLAP her for being so shallow, like how she doesn't know how to connect with her daughter, and how she shied away from adoption in the first place. Like adoption is so terrible. It drove me bonkers! But then when she and Kris were separated, and she found herself. Oh I just wanted to rejoice and hug her! I feel like her character builds and evolves so much.

    And Vijay? He just disappointed me. His parents tried SO HARD. And he just threw it away. Sigh.

    I recommended this book to a lot of people because I think it's so amazing, and it can touch so many people's lives. Good pick!

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    1. I just didn't even know what to think about Vijay. I can't imagine the trauma he went through living in Dharavi, and somehow I let that be an excuse in my mind for why he didn't grow up as his parents had hoped. But then again, both Kavita and Jasu seemed like such strong role models. It is one of the most terrifying parts of parenthood for sure!

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  4. Yes, Vijay's character was so interesting. Here these parents wasted 2 beautiful daughters to get the son of their dreams and he ends up making poor choices and disappointing them. I wonder at what point the parents could have intervened to bring Vijay back to being a responsible citizen. (If at any point?!) Maybe they did try their hardest??

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  5. Sounds like a great book... Thanks for the review. I am a new follower. I am advertising on The Tale of Me and My Husband too and thought I would check out the other blogs. Love for you to return the follow when you can ;)

    I am hosting Mom's Monday Mingle tonight! Love to have you link up!
    www.thenaptimereview.com

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