In a tiny Indian village a few hours from Mumbai, Kavita gives birth to her second daughter. Her first was disposed of at birth and she is determined that little Usha will not suffer the same fate. She makes the arduous trip to Mumbai where she leaves the three-day-old child in the care of one of the city's orphanages.
Halfway across the world, Somer, an American doctor and her Indian-born husband are told they cannot have children and decide to adopt. Somer makes her first trip to India, which she detests, and returns with Kavita's secret daughter. A story of family, identity and belonging spanning 25 years begins to evolve ? shifting between the two continents.
In the village outside Mumbai, Kavita finally gives birth to a son, Vijay, who she loves but never quite forgives for being allowed to live. Kavita's husband moves the family to Mumbai in search of a better life for Vijay and the images of their slow, painful rise from poverty are some of the book's most memorable.
In California, Somer is determined to raise her daughter American. They never accompany her husband on his rare trips to Mumbai, and she keeps Asha as far away from bhangra parties and bhindi masala as possible. When Asha eventually meets other Indian girls at college, she realises just how un-Indian she is and begins to articulate the dissonance she has felt her entire life. She feels neither American nor Indian, and for this she resentments her adoptive mother.
When Asha spends a year in India as part of a journalism fellowship to research the lives of children born into slums, she resolves to find her birth mother and uncover her identity.
There is nothing particularly spectacular about Shilpi Somaya Gowda's prose but it is elegant and uncomplicated. 'Secret Daughter' is an engaging and enjoyable story, if a little predictable and too neatly wrapped up, that would go down well with a glass of shiraz at the book club.