Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Author of
  • The Shape of Family
    HarperCollins, 2019
  • The Golden Son
    William Morrow (coming 2016)
  • Secret Daughter
    William Morrow (03/10)

Shilpi Somaya Gowda has written a stunning debut novel that explores the emotional terrain of motherhood, loss, identity and culture, witnessed through the lives of two families, one Indian, one American, and the daughter who indelibly binds them.

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto to parents who migrated there from Mumbai. She holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1991, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage. A native of Canada , she has lived in New York, North Carolina, and Texas. She currently makes her home in California with her husband and children.

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Books by Shilpi Somaya

The Shape of Family

From the international bestselling author of Secret Daughter and The Golden Son comes a poignant, unforgettable novel about a family’s growing apart and coming back together in the wake of tragedy.

The Olander family embodies the modern American Dream in a globalized world. Jaya, the cultured daughter of an Indian diplomat and Keith, an ambitious banker from middle-class Philadelphia, meet in a London pub in 1988 and make a life together in suburban California. Their strong marriage is built on shared beliefs and love for their two children: headstrong teenager Karina and young son Prem, the light of their home.

But love and prosperity cannot protect them from sudden, unspeakable tragedy, and the family’s foundation cracks as each member struggles to seek a way forward. Jaya finds solace in spirituality. Keith wagers on his high-powered career. Karina focuses relentlessly on her future and independence. And Prem watches helplessly as his once close-knit family drifts apart.

When Karina heads off to college for a fresh start, her search for identity and belonging leads her down a dark path, forcing her and her family to reckon with the past, the secrets they’ve held and the weight of their choices.

The Shape of Family is an intimate portrayal of four individuals as they grapple with what it means to be a family and how to move from a painful past into a hopeful future. It is a profoundly moving exploration of the ways we all seek belonging—in our families, our communities and ultimately, within ourselves.

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The Golden Son

International best-selling author Shilpi Gowda’s new novel takes young Anil Patel from his tradition-bound life in a village in Gujurat to a medical residency in Dallas, Texas. When we first meet him, thirty-six members of his extended family have journeyed from his small Indian village to the airport to see him off to America, where he will begin his residency. He is the first person in his family to leave India, the first to become a doctor, the first to have gone to college rather than become a farmer. But more important than any of these accomplishments is a simple fact of biology: Anil is the eldest son. As the eldest son in his clan of over a hundred, he will inherit the mantle of arbiter for all family disputes, from minor squabbles to serious conflicts. Anil’s father, and his grandfather before him, demonstrated wisdom and courage in the role, earning the respect of family and villagers. But Anil wants no part of this tradition. He is determined to strike out on his own and define himself apart from his family.

At the same time, Leena, a young girl from the same village, and Anil’s childhood friend, leaves her parent’s house to join her husband at his family compound in an arranged marriage. She soon finds nothing is what it seemed and that the practice of having parents arrange marriages on behalf of their children has failed her miserably. She is forced to make a difficult decision that will change her life forever.

Both a bildungsroman and a love story, Shilpi Gowda’s new novel follows Anil’s and Leena’s journey as they struggle to find their way and to come to terms with their identities and tradition. Anil finds himself torn between a beautiful American girl and Leena, his old childhood friend from the village who exerts a powerful spell. Will he be seduced by the freedom and opportunity that America has to offer or will his ties to India and family ultimately prove to be more powerful than he had anticipated? Shilpi Gowda brings her remarkable powers of description to her second novel, infusing scene after scene with profound emotional depth.

The Golden Son has been optioned for a film version by Canada’s Conquering Lion Pictures.

Praise for The Golden Son

The Golden Son swings back and forth across the world with easeful dexterity, pulling us deep into the lives of two protagonists who are as different as can be, and yet strangely similar. Shilpi Somaya Gowda's great achievement is this: she makes each locale she depicts fascinating and true and original; she makes each character she draws so heartbreakingly vibrant that even after we finish reading we can't forget them.

Chitra Divakaruni, author of Mistress of Spices and Oleander Girl

At turns harrowing and uplifting, The Golden Son is an international tale of two childhood friends grappling with parental and cultural expectations as they embark on journeys of self-discovery. Compulsively readable and inspiring, Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s latest novel explores questions of responsibility and independence while offering a fascinating glimpse into rural life in India and medical residency in Dallas.

Cathy Marie Buchanan, author of The Painted Girls

Shilpi Somaya Gowda is as adept at crafting disparate, fully realized worlds—a village in India, a medical school in Texas—as she is at creating compelling characters. I ached and cheered for Leena and Anil, as they struggle to live lives of their own choosing amidst the demands of tradition and the sometimes beautiful, sometimes painful bonds of family.

Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet

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Secret Daughter

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 daughterís 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 for her. 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 their destinies, Secret Daughter poignantly explores issues of culture and belonging. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite diverging cultural identities, this powerful debut novel marks the arrival of a fresh talent poised for great success.

Shilpi talks about how she came to write Secret Daughter

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