Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: The Golden Son

The Golden Son
By Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Published: January 26, 2016

The New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of Secret Daughter returns with an unforgettable story of love, honor, tradition, and identity.

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency at one of the best hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage required to take on the role.

Back home in India, Anil’s childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and forces her to make choices that will hold drastic repercussions for her family.
Tender and bittersweet, The Golden Son illuminates the decisions we must make to find our true selves.

My review:

I loved Secret Daughter so I was thrilled to hear about The Golden Son. Like in her debut, the story spans India and the United States. In this novel, Anil grows up in a small rural village where he and his father share the dream that Anil will become a doctor one day. Anil's family also has the expectation that Anil will return to India and take his father's place as the arbitrator of village disputes. But once Anil reaches the United States and sees the life he can live there and the career opportunities, he doesn't want to leave.  In spite of the hardship of his residency and the discrimination he faces, he has built a promising life in Texas. He even has an American girlfriend. Anil is torn between his family's expectations and what he wants for himself.

The other main character is Leena, Anil's friend and onetime crush. Leena come from a poorer family. Her parents sacrifice everything to arrange a good marriage for her and Leena is only too happy to comply. Once she marries and moves into her husband's family home however, she realizes the truth about him and her new in-laws. They treat Leena like their servant and she suffers under their mistreatment even as she does her best to please them and not bring shame to her own family.

I loved both Anil and Leena but I have to admit that it was Leena's story that really pulled me in. While I liked reading about Anil's experiences during his residency and the challenges he faced, it really didn't have the same impact as what Leena went through. She starts out as an idealist, trusting that her parents have made a good match for her. Even while her new family treats her poorly she tries to care for them. She is such a kindhearted person that it makes it that much harder to take. I was happy to see her stand up for herself and take her fate into her own hands but I thought after awhile that her story was put on the back burner to make room for Anil's which was too bad.

The novel looks at the push and pull between tradition and individual dreams as well as Eastern and Western values. Anil and Leena both have to face some decisions about going against the flow. I liked how the plot went in a different direction from what I expected. Both Leena and Anil have grown by the end of the novel and have found a measure of peace and happiness. I liked the development of both characters though some of the secondary characters could have been better drawn.

I loved the setting and the details about Indian culture, pottery making and the practice of village arbitration as well as Anil's medical work. I think it added to the story and the author has a gift for description. I think readers who liked Secret Daughter will like this novel as well though I think Secret Daughter was slightly more compelling perhaps because Anil's story line wasn't quite as strong as Leena's. I thought it was a very good follow up to an excellent debut novel. 

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm... I guess this should be added to my TBR then. Thanks for the review.


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