Happy UK and US publication day!
Thank you to the author and HarperCollins Canada for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—when the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly to Asha, the young woman on the cusp of adulthood who links them together.
On the day after her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness shortly before then, leaving Asha with only a letter.
Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.
Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.
Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life.
Three mothers, bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all. Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.
Tackling difficult and emotional themes such as the immigrant experience, mental health and identity, Secrets Lives of Mothers & Daughters is a moving story of the affection, obligations and traditions which maintain and break family bonds.
As in the author’s previous novel, Side by Side (click for my review), the characters are incredibly sympathetic, particularly the two young, intelligent, caring women at the centre of the dual narratives: Mala and Asha. We come to care about them incredibly quickly and it’s the success of these connections which pulls the reader through the book, unwilling to leave them until we know how their stories will end. I was so eager to find out how it would all work out, I read the book in two sittings, and the break in the middle was taken unwillingly.
As the title leads you to expect, there are several important revelations, and so I’m reluctant to say anything about the plot. In fact, I think going into the story knowing as little as possible is best (I hadn’t even read the blurb!). Just let yourself get caught up in the characters’ predicaments and you’ll be swept along. Though this is definitely a character-driven story, the plot moves forward swiftly, packed as it is with drama and tension. Indeed, the narrative is bursting with internal conflict as the characters struggle with difficult choices and whether to put family responsibilities and a sense of duty to their elders before their own desire for independence and self-determination.
Overall: a gripping story of family and personal drama centred on caring, intelligent female characters dealing with disorientating changes in their lives as best they can and making some mistakes along the way.
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Claire Huston / Art and Soul