Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Secret Daughter and Her Fearful Symmetry

I've two more books to add to my "Read" pile: Audrey Niffenegger's Her Fearful Symmetry and Shilpi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter.

On Her Fearful Symmetry - I was disappointed.  I picked it up because I really enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife and I suppose this was similar with its supernatural elements but the main characters weren't particularly engaging.  The most interesting storyline for me was the secondary one involving Martin, the upstairs neighbor.  I was glad for his happy ending. The end.

Oh!  And I want to visit Highgate Cemetery next I'm in London - the way it's described in the book and the fantastic images from its website are compelling.

From the back cover:
Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other.  One morning the mailmen delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt, Elspeth Noblin, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls' aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including - perhaps - their aunt.

On Secret Daughter - the end made me cry and I felt compelled to read it every night before bed since starting it over the weekend. 

This passage from p. 270 struck me:

...her mother always said the key to a successful marriage was for each spouse to give as much as they thought they possibly could. And then, to give a little more. Somewhere in that extra giving, in the space created by generosity without keeping score, was the difference between marriages that thrived and those that didn't. 

It sounds like something my mom would say, although - and maybe this is a matter of it being lost in translation since my mom communicates with me in Cantonese - the way she spins it, it sounds more like I should settle because no one's perfect.  Point is, I really enjoyed this book and am glad it's getting the recognition it deserves.

From the back cover:
On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. But in a culture that favors sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter's life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son.
Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband, Krishnan, see a photo of the baby with the gold-flecked eyes from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion. Somer knows life will change with the adoption but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles.
Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and the child that binds both their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores the emotial 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.

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