An Unforgettable Contemporary Fiction set in India: The Forgotten Daughter by Renita d’Silva

I received this book for free from Publisher for review consideration, opinions expressed are 100% my own. This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you.

The Forgotten Daughter by Renita D'Silva
Published by Bookouture
Publication Date: February 28, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Drama, Fiction, World or cultural
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher
Indie Bookstores | Amazon

Synopsis from Goodreads:

‘You were adopted’.
Three simple words, in a letter accompanying her parent’s will, tear Nisha’s carefully ordered world apart. Raised in England, by her caring but emotionally reserved parents, Nisha has never been one to take risks.

Now, with the scrawled address of an Indian convent begins a search for the mother and family she never knew and the awakening of childhood memories long forgotten.

The secrets, culture and people that Nisha discover will change her life forever. And, as her eyes are opened to a side of herself she didn’t know existed, Nisha realizes that she must also seek answers to the hardest question of all – why?

Weaving together the stories of Nisha, Shilpa and Devi, The Forgotten Daughter explores powerfully and poignantly the emotional themes of motherhood, loss and identity – ultimately asking the question of what you would do out of love for your children?”

My Thoughts:

Renita d’Silva’s debut novel, Monsoon Memories, was one of the first books I accepted for review and I totally loved it. I was so excited to find an Indian writer who actually wrote some phrases in the small Indian dialect that my family speaks and brought to life the comforts of my mom’s Indian cooking. I was even more excited that she wrote a book that I connected to on an emotional level and just couldn’t put down.

I was happy to be given her second novel, The Forgotten Daughter, for review also. Would Ms. D’Silva meet the high expectations her first novel had set for me? Yes! I was captivated from the very beginning.

Told from 3 alternating points of view: Shilpa, an old woman in India, Devi, her daughter and Nisha, a young woman who was raised in England but is of Indian heritage. The synopsis tells you all about Nisha, with scientists for parents, Nisha is raised in an intelligent and orderly family. Her parents love her but don’t show her physical affection. They also don’t give her any indication that she’s adopted so the letter she receives informing her sends a shock through an already grief-stricken only child. Nisha must overcome her reservations in both her personal life with her boyfriend and her new future as she seeks out the family she has never known in a country she has never been to.

My heart really went out to Nisha, and her story stayed with me for weeks. Being the only daughter of Indian parents, I wondered what I would feel like if I were in her circumstances. My parents gave me everything and their love and affection, I couldn’t have asked for more. My world would be shattered, just as Nisha’s was. I’ve been to India only the once that I could remember and can’t speak any Indian dialects. How would I manage on finding my family in India and the answers that I seek? This had me on quite an emotional journey and introspection.

As a narrator, Devi starts out as a somewhat resentful character. She thinks her mother is overprotective and overbearing. She wants her own life and resents having to come back and take care of her ailing mother. The beauty of her story is what she learns about her mother from reading her mother’s diary. As she reads, she learns things she never knew and it impacts how she feels about her mom. Devi’s story is relatable, how many times have we felt as kids that our parents were too hard on us? Or that they are smothering or overprotective?

My favorite narrator was Shilpa. We read her diary entries and hear her voice as she lies in her bed. She fades in and out of consciousness physically but her voice is crystal clear. As a parent, she clearly adores Devi, Devi might say to a fault. As the story unfolds, we learn her motivations, her trials and tribulations and the experiences that mold her character. As a parent myself, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my children and my heart broke as Shilpa had many difficult decisions to face that would greatly impact her and Devi’s life. For Shilpa, I cried.

The other aspect of this book I found unique was that Shilpa’s chapters started with mouth-watering Indian recipes. I was highlighting away on my Kindle so maybe I can make these some day! I loved that Indian food was an integral part of the story and Shilpa tells us about how she feels and why those dishes are special to her. It’s exactly how I feel about my mom’s kitchen. Growing up, the kitchen was the heart of our home, where we spent the most time together enjoying good food, each other’s company and a whole lot of good times. It was so wonderful seeing that feeling communicated in this book. I started a family cookbook years ago and enjoying adding recipes to it and writing notes about holidays, birthdays and special memories for each. I hope my kids look back on their childhood (and the cookbook) and feel the same way about our kitchen and the good food and good times we share.

The Forgotten Daughter is a book that gets better every time I think about it, like only great books can. An emotional journey and story about self-discovery, forgiveness and testing the limits of mothers’ love. I loved this book both for how it made me feel and what it made me remember.

Favorite Quotes:

Shilpa: “For me, food doesn’t just taste sweet, sour, spicy, what have you-it tastes of feelings it invokes memories.”

Shilpa: “Every food has a feeling, a memory. Every important milestone in my life has a food associated with it. That is why this diary couldn’t just be for recipes. That is why I am narrating the story of my life via food.”

Devi: “But now that I am far enough away, I am able to remember the good times, times when I was happy. And I was, a lot of the time. And slowly I am beginning to appreciate just how much you did for me.”

“Without even knowing I was incomplete, I felt whole again.”

Challenges Satisfied:

Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge – contemporary fiction set in India. This is a great book to learn about India, the food, the cultural beliefs, and the differing views between Catholic and Hindu Indians. I was surprised to learn that the different religions looked down on the other and that intermarrying was not allowed. I am thankful my family did not believe that, I grew up a Hindu and married a Hispanic Catholic!

Book Club Discussion Questions:

Feel free to answer the questions in the comments whether or not you have read the book! I’d love to hear from you!

1. What would you do if you found out you were adopted? Would you try to find your birth parents? What if they lived in a foreign country you knew nothing about?

2. Would you ever give your child up for adoption? Under what circumstances?

3. Do you find yourself doing or saying the same things to your children as your parents said to you? Give us some examples.

4. What is your parenting style? Do you let your kids make their own mistakes, are you overprotective, or somewhere in between?

5. Do you have any special memories involving food from your childhood? What are your comfort foods or favorite foods to celebrate holidays? Who’s the cook in your house now?

6. Did you have a diary as a kid or do you have one now? Did you keep it? Do you re-read it? Have you let anyone else read it?

As you can see from the length of this review, I really loved this book and it really got me thinking. What books have got you thinking lately? Feel free to answer the discussion questions, even if you haven’t read the book!

About Renita D’Silva

From Goodreads: “I love nothing better than to lose myself in a good book. The only thing that comes close to the feeling I get when I read is when I am writing. I am the author of Monsoon Memories and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.

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  1. The book sounds worth reading just for the recipes alone!

    I’ve heard of this author but never tried her books, should look out for them sometime. Thanks for the review.

    1. I love the recipes, my mom is a great cook but she never measures anything. When I try to make her recipes, it just doesn’t come out as good. I need recipes so I love that this one combined my love for food and books!

      I have read both of hers and received the 3rd one too for review. Her writing really touches me so hope you enjoy her books as much as I do!

  2. “For me, food doesn’t just taste sweet, sour, spicy, what have you-it tastes of feelings it invokes memories.”

    I love that quote. This looks intensely readable and you had me sold at the fact that there are recipes. I LOVE Indian food. 🙂

    1. Yay! The recipes look delicious, some of my childhood favorites! I read after kids are in bed and my stomach was constantly growling reading this book…and made me miss my mom! Hope you enjoy if you give it a try. Thanks for sharing and hosting!

  3. Stopping by from The Steadfast Reader–Forgotten Daughter has been on my TBR list for awhile, but now I think I need to read it soon! I enjoy books featuring alternating viewpoints, and I love reading about food and cooking, This seems like a book that I would really like! Great review!

    1. Thanks for stopping by book mammal. I do enjoy alternating viewpoints also, and the author did great leaving us with cliffhangers to keep me wanting to read more!

  4. I’ll have to look into this book. I enjoy reading books about India. It’s a fascinating culture and one we don’t often hear about here in the US. #SITSsharefest

    1. I enjoy books set in India also, for a much more personal reason. I am sad I haven’t been able to travel to India to see my family since I was diagnosed with RA, an immune system disorder. Travelling through books is the only way I can get there these days and I seem to learn more about the culture every time I pick up another book. I hope you will consider joining our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge Adrian!

    1. Thanks Sue! I thought it was books over 450 pages so thought it didn’t qualify. But when I was linking up my sign up post, realized its 400 pages which is what this one is. I lucked out! 🙂 It is very special when a book impacts you like that. It’s why I read as much as I can, to find as many books that touch me like these 5 star books have!

    1. Thanks Tammy, yes, it’s why I love to read, to find that emotional connection to a book. To have it make me think, make me better, make me happy or make me expand my horizons. Thanks for stopping by!

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