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Over the Edge of the World

Over the Edge of the World

Written by Laurence Bergreen

Narrated by Laurence Bergreen


Over the Edge of the World

Written by Laurence Bergreen

Narrated by Laurence Bergreen

ratings:
4/5 (146 ratings)
Length:
6 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 27, 2004
ISBN:
9780060747787
Format:
Audiobook

Description

A majestic tale of discovery thatchanged many long-held views about the world

In 1519 Magellan and his fleet of five ships set sail from Seville, Spain, to discover a water route to the fabled Spice Islands in Indonesia, where the most sought-after commodities -- cloves, pepper, and nutmeg -- flourished. Three years later, a handful of survivors returned with an abundance of spices from their intended destination, but with just one ship carrying eighteen emaciated men. During their remarkable voyage around the world the crew endured starvation, disease, mutiny, and torture. Many men died, including Magellan, who was violently killed in a fierce battle.

This is the first full account in nearly half a century of this voyage into history: a tour of the world emerging from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance; a startling anthropological account of tribes, languages, and customs unknown to Europeans; and a chronicle of a desperate grab for commercial and political power.

Publisher:
Released:
Jan 27, 2004
ISBN:
9780060747787
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

LAURENCE BERGREEN is the bestselling author of Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe. His other books include Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492–1504; Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu; and Voyage to Mars: NASA’s Search for Life Beyond Earth. A graduate of Harvard, Bergreen lives in Manhattan.


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4.1
146 ratings / 144 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Secret Daughter by Shilpi Gowda; (4 1/2*)A remarkable novel! The book is a wonderful story that illustrates the love a mother and father have for their children regardless of how they were conceived. It also sheds light on foreign customs and traditions and how they affect the family dynamic and relationships. I enjoyed how the story was told from five different perspectives. I was invested in these characters and also some of the back story ones as well.I would have loved to see a different ending but for this book that just wouldn't have worked.I highly recommend this novel.
  • (4/5)
    Told over a twenty year period and set against the backdrop of India, this is an captivating story about adoption, motherhood, families and identity. Asha, Kavita and Somer are all strong female protagonists who are drawn together through unusual circumstances. However, some of the other characters are not as well-developed, especially those in Asha's extended family. The cultural differences between America and India, and the social inequality between rich and poor is clearly highlighted in "Secret Daughter" without becoming too in-depth and spoiling the overall story. The book moves between the two cultures effortlessly and I particularly enjoyed the author's detailed descriptions of India as they give the reader some vivid insights into this fascinating country.
  • (4/5)
    I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book but I thought I would give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I think it took me two days to read it, it was such an easy read. She did a great job making you care for the characters and really gave you a look at Indian culture.

    It didn't end the way I thought it would but I think it was the right ending. I recommend this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • (4/5)
    The Secret Daughter by Shilpi Samaya Gowda is a heartfelt story about mothers and daughters. While a poverty stricken Indian mother is forced to give away her newborn daughter, another woman living in America discovers that she will never give birth to the child that she has always wanted. The American woman, Somer, does adopt the Indian baby and along with her Indian born husband raises her in America. The novel switches back and forth between these two women, Somer in America and Kavita in India. While Kavita does go on to have the baby boy that was desired by her husband, she never forgets the daughter that she had to give away. Somer is always uneasy about the Indian connection, and as the child grows up and demands more answers about her background, she fears that she will lose her daughter, Asha. Asha does go to India, seeking answers and what she finds there fills in many of the blanks in her life but also brings her to appreciate fully what the adoption has brought to her life.The author breaths life into this story of two mothers and a daughter and it is an emotional read. I would have liked to have seem a little more depth added to the characters, and perhaps a little more definition given to the men in the story, but I enjoyed learning about modern day India so overall this was a very satisfactory read.
  • (3/5)
    Predictable, chick lit. Woman gives daughter away to orphanage in India. Rich american doctors adopt girl. Indian woman has a boy finally that turns out to be bad, but the secret daughter is the golden child.
  • (3/5)
    I loved the premise of this book - the issue of motherhood, what makes a mother, what a mother will do for her child, what makes a family. The issue is portrayed in the context of Indian culture which adds an additional element of interest. Unfortunately, the book falls short because it oversimplifies many things - what drew Krishnan and Somar together when they are so different and she was so resistent to his culture? How was Kavita able to get away long enough to the city to accomplish what she did? How was Krishnan's family so accepting of his leaving the country, his marriage, and his adopted daughter? How did Asha assimilate so quickly into a culture and a family she did not know?I did enjoy the book but found the treatment a little shallow.
  • (4/5)
    It's interesting that I just happened to read Shilpi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter right after finishing Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Both books take place in India, but one is a nonfiction, in-depth look at life in a Mumbai slum, and the other is a fiction book that talks about a college student who writes a newspaper piece about mothers in the Mumbai slums. As I read Secret Daughter, I used much of what I learned about life in India in Behind the Beautiful Forevers to illuminate the fictional scenes.Secret Daughter is jointly about a poor Indian woman who travels to Mumbai to give her infant daughter to an orphanage rather to save her life, and the husband and wife from the United States who adopt that child about a year later. Kavita must give Usha (later Asha) up for adoption because otherwise her husband (convinced they are too poor to have expensive daughters and will only accept a boy baby) will kill the baby girl, just as he did the first daughter Kavita birthed. Meanwhile, in the United States, Somer and her Indian-born husband Kris discover that they will never be able to have children of their own. Kris enthusiastically looks into adopting a child from his home country, but Somer is reluctant and unsure that adoption is a convincing substitute for having her own child. They end up traveling to India (an experience that Somer hates) and adopting Kavita's baby girl, now called Asha.As Asha grows, she feels like she's trapped between two worlds. She doesn't fit in with her Indian classmates - she hasn't even been to India since she was a baby and her parents don't raise her with traditional Indian customs. But she also feels and looks different than her white classmates. From an early age she starts writing and storing letters to her real mother and grows to almost resent her adoptive parents. "They don't understand me because they're not really my parents; my real mother would understand me" becomes Asha's prevailing attitude as she ages and goes to college to study journalism.It is there that she wins a fellowship to go abroad for a year. Asha plans to travel to India to do a project about children growing up in poverty. Secretly, she also hopes to find her birth parents.I was not overly impressed with Secret Daughter - I wondered about how realistic the author's portrayal of adoption was. Not so much the adoption process, but the emotions involved. Now, I have no personal experience with adoption - I was not adopted and I have never adopted anyone else - but would Asha's resentment toward the parents who loved and provided for her be realistic? No teenager thinks that her parents understand her. And I feel that Asha's feelings of alienation stem more from her blended ethnicity family than her adoption. Wouldn't the biological child of an American woman and an Indian man have the same struggles?My main complaint of the particular copy of the book that I read is that pages 215-246 were completely missing! So that's a pretty big chunk of story that I missed. I could sort of fill in the blanks based on the before and after context, but of course it wasn't the same.One thing that I particularly liked about Secret Daughter was some of the character development, specifically that of Jasu, Kavita's husband. At the beginning of the novel, I couldn't help but hate Jasu. He kills one of his new born daughters and would have killed the second if Kavita hadn't run away to Mumbai to bring her to the orphanage. She refuses to turn the baby over to Jasu, and he tries to reason with her, saying, "Look, Kavita, you know we can't keep this baby. We need a boy to help us in the fields. As it is, we can hardly afford one child, how can we have two? My cousin's daughter is twenty-three and still not married, because he can't come up with the dowry. We are not a rich family, Kavita. You know we can't do this... She will become a burden to us, a drain on our family" (pg. 15). Such an attitude is alien to my worldview and not something I can easily understand. But, as the novel progresses, Jasu changes. By the end, he could hardly be recognized as the same person. Gowda embraces reality in her portrayal of Jasu - people do change over the course of their lives.Overall, Secret Daughter wasn't polished enough for me - it didn't have the literary merit that is present in the books I consider excellent. Secret Daughter is a good bestseller-type of book, and bestsellers always seem to disappoint me a bit. I guess my tastes are just too esoteric.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoy reading books about family and Indian culture and this book fits the bill. Secret Daughter is an interesting and heartwarming story about a daughter born in India to a poor family. The baby girl is placed in an orphanage and adopted by a couple in America. The husband is Indian and the wife is American. The story goes back and forth between the story in India and the story of the daughter, Asha being raised in America.I found it to be enjoyable and would recommend it to others. I look forward to reading more by Gowda.
  • (4/5)
    Gowda has written a very poignant book about motherhood and the various shapes it takes. When two doctors are unable to conceive naturally, Cali girl Somer and her Indian husband Kris decide to adopt a baby from an orphanage is his hometown Bombay (Mumbai). Told in alternating views, the stories of Kavita, the baby's biological Indian mother, Somer, her adoptive mother and Asha herself come to life. The various pictures of the slices of life and time of these people are at times heartwrenching and uplifting. The book touches on many social issues that face India even now, with the overcrowding, slums, birthrate, but still highlights a strong matriarchal figure in Kris' mom Sarla.
  • (4/5)
    Secret Daughter was an interesting look into a 25+ year span in the lives of an Indian couple living in poverty who choose to put their daughter up for adoption and the couple who adopt her (an American woman and her Indian husband, both doctors, living in the U.S.)For the most part, I enjoyed the book. Some parts were a bit predictable and it was difficult to warm up to Asha's adoptive mother, Somer. She seemed so detached from her daughter during much of her childhood and I found that heartbreaking for Asha. However, I found the parts focusing on Jasu and Kavita, the Indian couple, to be very interesting and as the story progressed I began to learn more about Somer (and she learned a great deal more about herself). I can definitely see why she often felt like an outsider in her own family. It's just a shame it took her such a long time to do something about it.I think the author took on a daunting task in trying to convey the experiences of two families over a 25 year time span in just 340 pages. Because of this, some of the events wrapped up a little too neatly or were brushed over rather quickly. However, the story still kept my attention, especially as Asha became a young woman and had to make some major decisions about how she wanted to live her life. Kavita was by far my favorite character in this book and an entire story could be written just about her life. This was a very interesting look into Indian customs, traditions and culture as well and the glossary in the back proved useful.The ending certainly could've gone a few different ways and the one the author chose might not have been my first choice, but I respect the direction in which she decided to take it. Overall, a good book and I appreciated the opportunity to be an Early Reviewer for it. I recommend Secret Daughter if you're looking for a fairly quick and interesting read about overseas adoption, Indian culture and what makes a family. I think it would create some good book club discussion as well.
  • (5/5)
    I enjoyed reading Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, and I thought it was a wonderful debut.The story centers around Asha, a baby adopted from an orphanage in India by her American mother and Indian American father, both doctors. Throughout the story the reader experiences Asha's growth from child to young woman.The author is gifted in the way she reveals each character's story. Kavita, the birth mother, risked everything to ensure that her daughter would survive, and despite her selflessness was haunted for the rest of her life for giving up her daughter. Somer, the adoptive mother, and overly critical of herself, centered her world around Asha, and yet, in many ways made herself an outsider in her own family. Krishnan, the adoptive father, struggled as an Indian American, trying to balance his passion for America and his love for his native homeland. Sarla, Asha's paternal grandmother, played an important role of bridging the two worlds. I learned a great deal from many of the minor characters as well, and each added to the story. I enjoyed the journey I shared with these characters, and their ultimate self-discovery.The reader learns what these characters are feeling and thinking, and discovers their past struggles and how their past decisions influenced their future. I felt many varied emotions for these characters at different points in the book. In the end, I learned that life is complicated; there are joys and hardships for everyone. All people shine at times and are less than proud of themselves at others. Those that endure have amazing stories to share and lessons to teach.I do not want to spoil the story by revealing too much, but I have to say that the weakest part of the book for me was Asha's final decision on whether to meet with her birth parents or not. Although in many ways a realistic choice, I wish the author would have gone in a different direction. The ending felt slightly flat to me.The writing was excellent, the story was fast moving, the alternating perspectives was engaging and the glimpses of India, both spectacular and tragic, were inspiring. I respect the author and her creative abilities; it was her story to tell, and there is no doubt that I would read her future work.
  • (5/5)
    This was a beautiful story that moved me and educated me. Gowda did a wonderful job at presenting the Indian culture for both it's beauty and it's poverty. I think a quote from the book jacket describes the book better than I could - "Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity and love , as witnessed through the lives of two families-one Indian, one American-and the child that indelibly connects them." I thought it was a very good story and I loved the ending.
  • (3/5)
    I can see why this book is on many book club lists. Plenty to discuss adoption, motherhood, sex-based abortions.
  • (3/5)
    It's easy to see why this novel is a Canadian bestseller. Yes, it is chick lit, but great chick lit. Both my book clubs have it on the reading list, but BPYC reviewed it first.This is the author's first novel. The story is well crafted; the female characters are strong and fascinating. Kavita, whose first daughter is murdered at birth, resolves to save the life of her second 'secret' daughter, by carrying her to an orphanage and giving her up for adoption. The girl ends up in North America, well-schooled and well-loved, but always wondering about her biological mother.The story takes place on two continents and weaves back and forth between the lives of the different families, generations and cultures.The nature of motherhood is certainly a major theme, but not to the extent that the non-mothers in the group felt the book didn't speak to them on other levels.Dualism, fate, destiny, luck, privilege, the notion of choice.And some fun new words, like:- futta fut (quickly)- khush (happy)- yaar (friend)The group's only criticism was that the male characters were a bit one dimensional, used more as plot devices or catalysts and not as fully developed as the women in the story. But then, this really was a story about the lives of women:
  • (5/5)
    In a small village in India, Kavita is about to give birth. She is praying this second child with her husband, Jasu is a boy. If it is a girl, like her first born, she will not be able to bare the consequences. Sadly, this second child of theirs is a girl. Kavita will not allow what happened to their first daughter, happen to this one, so she makes the choice to give her away. This decision will haunt Kavita for the rest of her days.We are then taken to California and introduced to Somer and Krishnan. Somer and Krishnan are doctors and have tried everything to have a child, but finally decide to adopt. They travel to Krishnan's home, Mumbai to visit an orphanage and bring home their baby. Somer, an American, hopes her love will be enough to overcome all the obstacles in their path.The story continues going back and forth between the two couples and their lives starting in the 1980's and continuing all the way through 2009. The interconnecting lives of Kavita and Somer and their struggles with motherhood, with their marriages, and with their future will give you an emotional ride.The daughter that connects these two women across the world grows up as the reader travels through the book. As she becomes an adult, she struggles with the two worlds that she is part of, those of her father's family in India and her mother's family in America. By searching for where she fits in, she finds that maybe where she belonged was right in front of her all along.The author had no trouble placing me in the heart of the tiny village of India or in the large city of Mumbai. Her descriptions of the people living in the slums of Mumbai and their daily struggles were heartbreaking to read, but I'm sure all too real. The traditions of Krishnan's family and Kavita's family opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. I'm just thankful our American culture realizes it is the man that determines the gender of a baby and doesn't value boys over girls. I wanted to scream at Jasu and his ignorance. This was our book club choice last month and was loved by all of us. As moms we found this book to be quite emotional as we read both Kavita's and Somer's struggles with giving up their child and with not being able to have childen. We sympathized as they raised their children and confronted frustrating moments. We empathized as their marriages weren't as they originally dreamed they would be. This was a book full of feelings, relationships, traditions, and most of all, love. It is a story you won't forget.This is Shilpi Somaya Gowda's first novel and I can't wait to read her next one. The novel is also planned to hit movie screens in the future.
  • (2/5)
    Recommended by a friend/patron... just was not my cup of tea tho.
  • (4/5)
    Review: This is one of those books that you're not sure you're even going to like, but it's a refreshing surprise when you realize what a good book it is. There is certainly a lot of conflict throughout the book. Kavita is angry at her husband, Jasu, because of the incidents when she gave birth to two daughters. She's obviously mad at the whole notion of girls being expendable; if the women give birth to a girl before having a boy first, the girls are not normally permitted to live. You know, as I was reading this I was thinking "Wow, what a barbaric act. How do the women deal with having their baby girls ripped away from them?". I was also assuming that maybe this is not something that is in practice anymore in India. I looked up "gender selection in India" on Google and gender is still very much a huge issue. The rich are more financially able to get ultrasounds, and therefore if the baby happens to be a girl, they abort. It went on to list some of the reasons Indian families do not want girls and it says that underlying all of the various reasons is that they see girls as more expensive, due to the fact that they need protection and require large dowries to get a suitable mate. If you'd like to read the full article, click *HERE* it was very interesting and explained a lot about the practice of gender selection. Jasu starts out very resentful towards Kavita because she has yet to give him a son. It must be a lot of pressure, having your family tell you to marry someone else because your wife is defective as she can't manage to give birth to a boy. Somer and her husband Krishnan (Kris) seem to get along very well in the beginning, but not being able to carry a pregnancy to term definitely takes it's toll on their relationship. Somer wants to be a mother so bad, but she desperately wants to have her own child. She is very resistant to adopt, probably feeling that if she does so it's like admitting defeat, that she'll never have her own biological baby. This makes her resentful of Kris, who is all for adopting a baby from an orphanage in India which is where he was born, grew up; it's where his own family still lives. For his part, Kris doesn't understand Somer's desire to have a biological child; he sees it as a formality. That you can love an adopted child just as much as one that has your genes. I can definitely see and understand where both sides are coming from.Another interesting aspect of the book was that Somer and Kavita were both grieving, but they do so in such different ways. Not so different though, and the fact that ties them together, is that they both are grieving alone. Neither one has someone they can really share that grief with, and so they suffer alone.Asha makes a few appearances in the first half of the book, but she becomes the focal character in the second half. She is a very strong young woman, determined and compassionate. And living in the United States, she has a very strong urge to learn more about her culture. I really enjoyed reading about her journey, all of the sad and happy moments she experiences.After reading about the slums in Mumbai, I just had to see some pictures to get a feel for what it actually looked like. The Dhavari is a very real place, the largest slum in Asia. It makes me feel for these people that have no other option than to live here. It also makes me very thankful for everything I have in my life; I am very lucky. If you would like to know more about the slum, simply Google "Dhavari slum" and you will find numerous articles and pictures to give you an idea of what the slum is like. Click *HERE* for a good article to see both article and pictures. Overall I really enjoyed this book. The only two things that really didn't work for me was the point of view it was told in. For example, instead of saying "The girl went to the store" it was more like "The girl goes to the store". It felt sort of like I was reading a transcript of something, it just didn't flow right for me. I did get used to it after awhile though, but the past tense probably would have worked better for me. Also, the book tended to jump around a lot through the years. One day Asha is 6 years old, the next time you meet up with her she is much older and it has you wondering what you missed. These two points are easily overlooked though, as this book really touched me and drew me into it's world. The author, Shilpi Somaya Gowda, does a great job of painting a picture of life in India, as well as themes of adoption, grief, and forgiveness. There are a lot of Indian words throughout the book, which would be overwhelming if there were not a glossary of terms in the back of the book. It was great to have that to reference when I came upon an unfamiliar term. Definitely check this book out, you won't regret it!My rating: 4/5 stars
  • (5/5)
    I enjoyed this novel that celebrates the love, strength, and self-sacrifice of Indian mothers. Taking a multi-generational approach to her story telling, Shilpi Somaya Gowda teaches readers about both rural and large city Indian life, the importance of the stability of marriage, and the overriding influence of a supportive immediate and extended family in the development of individuals. A valuable lesson is that families can be accepting of connections with people outside of their blood lines and racial identities if there is a loving, strong, and self-sacrificing matriarch anchoring the social group. The dramatic focus of the novel is on Usha, a daughter born to a poor woman in rural India. Because of the very limited resources of the family, female children are a liability but sons are an asset. Sons can work in the fields and carry on the blood line. Kavita makes an important decision at the birth of her daughter that will haunt her for a lifetime. She and her husband Jasu can have ultimate peace only through knowledge of the life of Usha. The structure of the novel causes the reader to look forward to the next episodes of several family stories in alternating chapters. The development of the characters is realistic and their emotions strongly affect readers. The book is similar in structure, character development, and emotional impact to another very good novel set in Uruguay, The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis. I recommend Secret Daughter to readers who like stories that take place in international settings and characters who create strong emotions. You will experience sadness and joy and will shed more than a few tears as I did.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed the book and in particular enjoyed reading about India and life there. I appreciated the multiple points of view and ultimately found this a very satisfying novel.
  • (5/5)
    Secret Daughter is the debut novel of author Shilpi Somaya Gowda and is a powerful story about the ties, biological and otherwise, which bind a family together. Although the novel covers themes such as poverty and the subjugation of women which feature often in novels set in India, these topics are treated with a depth and skill which allow this book to stand out among its peers.The novel alternately tells the story of Kavita, a woman from a village in India and Somer, a woman in San Francisco who is married to an Indian ex-pat, Krishnan. They are bound together by Asha - Kavita's biological daughter who she gives up at birth because she is not a son and Somer's adopted daughter who Krishnan and Somer adopted from a orphanage in Mumbai. Of course, things are not as simple as that summary - Kavita mourns the loss of her daughter every day and Somer struggles with feeling alienated from her husband and daughter who share a heritage if not blood. As the novel progresses, we witness the Kavita and her family's attempts at a better life with a move to Mumbai and Asha's development into a young woman who increasingly wants to know more about her Indian heritage and her birth parents.Amidst Indian customs, exploration of the poverty of the Mumbai slums and the effect of the dowry system on the treatment of infant girls, Gowda presents a story about motherhood and the extents to which mothers will go to protect and provide for their children. There are the obvious mother figures in Kavita and Somer but there are many others weaved throughout the novel including each of the women with their own mothers and women in the Mumbai slums. These stories of motherhood is what I found so moving about the book - the relationship of mother and child with all its joys and hurts is the great equalizer and lends humanity to each and every character.I know this novel and the characters it introduced me to will stay with me for some time - I didn't want the book to end! The writing was excellent so I hope that Gowda will soon write another novel. In the meantime, take time to treasure this one and consider it as a Mother Day's gift for all those special mothers in your life.
  • (4/5)
    Secret Daughter is the story of an American woman (Somer), her Indian husband (Krishnan..or Kris), their adopted Indian daughter (Asha) and her birth parents (Kavita and Janu).The story is told from multiple perspectives which highlights their individual differences as well as cultural differences. Through the story the author explores various aspects of intercultural marriage, international adoption, and the cultural and emotional strains therein. The story is well told, the writing is clear. Some parts of the storyline are predictable, especially if you've read the writer of other Indian/North American writers. At the end of the story all of the ends are tied up neatly, which I can't decide if that's to the credit of the author or not.
  • (3/5)
    I was so excited to read this book as many of my friends had read it and recommended it to me. I was overall a little bit disappointed. It explores the relationships between mothers and daughters and I enjoyed the first part much more than the second half. I found I didn't really identify much with any of the characters. It was an "ok" read, but not one I would highly recommend.
  • (5/5)
    Asha is adopted. Her parents, both successful doctors, have raised her free of financial worry. Now, she returns to India to establish a relationship with her father's relatives and to see if she can find her biological mother. GOOD story.....realistic
  • (4/5)
    An adopted Indian girl goes back to India and decides to look find out something about her roots. In addition, the story does include the story of her family of natural origin. Story was good, but it seemed like the writing needed a little tweaking. The description of the culture of India as well as the treatment of females in India among the poor was very interesting. I would have had a different ending.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed the story and how the author blended the different P.O.V's to create a more multifaceted effect on the storyline.
  • (3/5)
    A novel following, essentially, three women. Kavita, an Indian mother who makes the decision to take her newborn daughter to an orphanage rather than allow her husband to take her and kill her as he did their first daughter. Asha, the daughter who is adopted by an American-Indian bi-racial couple. She grows up feeling completely American and yet different and displaced - even in her own home. And Somer, the American adoptive mother. While it was an engaging story in and of itself, what appealed most to me about this book was the growth that we see in each woman as the novel spans 20 years. They weren't delivered an easy out by the author. I appreciated that.
  • (4/5)
    Interesting story, but the best thing about the book was getting insight into the culture of India. The juxtaposition of the middle-class and impoverished families was done really well. Horrifying that so many girl babies are killed; this made it real.
  • (4/5)
    The connection between mothers and daughters can be tenuous; especially if one or both feel isolated because of cultural differences. Usha (Dawn) is not really a secret, but she is a girl and a liability to her poverty-stricken family in India. Kavita gives her a chance at life when she flees her husband to take her newborn to an orphanage in Bombay. A year later, the baby becomes Asha (Hope) and is adopted by an American family.The typical challenges with adopting a foreign child are exacerbated by the fact that the father and child in this case are both Indian, leaving new mother Somer feeling like she is the one who has been adopted. Meanwhile, back in India, Kavita and her family are forced off the land and move to a different kind of life in Mumbai.There is lot of necessary bouncing back and forth between families and countries in this book. The author has undertaken a complex story and simplified it as much as possible. When it focuses on Asha as a young woman being pulled between two cultures until her longing to understand her background takes hold of both her and the reader, it becomes a more engaging read. Unfortunately, this doesn't occur until the middle of the book. However, while waiting for this affinity to take place, the reader will learn about India so the backstory has some rewards. Making use of the glossary of foreign words at the back of the book helps with this cultural formation.As Asha discovers that Mumbai is a city of contradictions, she begins to understand and appreciate her complicated relationship with the people in her life and what it means to be part of a family. Despite the heavy themes of cultural differences and adoption, I would consider this as light reading designed with bestseller lists in mind. It lacks the literary characteristics that propel it from the good to the great realm of books.
  • (3/5)
    Engaging interwoven storyline of 2 families and the adopted girl who connects them across the world from America to India.
  • (5/5)
    The story is put together so perfectly, it's hard to believe this is a first novel. Gowda discusses sexual discrimination, culture clash, infertility, adoption, motherhood, marriage, families, regrets and reconsiderations never sounding gimmicky and always keeping the reader interested in the real people the characters could be. She mentions sexual selective abortions being done in India in a way that fits completely into the story while informing the reader of some of the consequences of India's "valuing some of her children more than others." One quote brought to mind an idea that I hadn't considered before, "Adoption cures childlessness but it doesn't cure infertility". I didn't know why Somer should have had such low self esteem, such inability to trust in her ability to mother, such rejection of her husband's culture because of her anger at him except for the fact that she couldn't forgive herself for her lack of "womanhood." I love the way the various characters wind around each other discovering new things about themselves and each other and each other's culture. This is a very satisfying, interesting even compelling book. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about India, infertility, or family.