The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda ISBN: 9780062391452 (hardcover) ISBN: 9780062391476 (ebook) ASIN: B00X3N8SIM (Kindle edition) Publication date: January 26, 2016 Publisher: William Morrow
Anil is the cherished son of a large family in rural India. As the eldest boy, he is expected to inherit the role of leader of his clan and arbiter of its disputes, dispensing wisdom and good advice. Leena is his closest companion, a fiercely brave girl who loves nothing more than the wild terrain they inhabit and her close-knit family. As childhood friends, they are inseparable—but as adulthood approaches, they grow apart.
Anil is the first person in his family to leave India, the first to attend college, the first to become a doctor. Half a world away in Dallas, Texas, he is caught up in his new life, experiencing all the freedoms and temptations of American culture: he tastes alcohol for the first time, falls in love, and learns firsthand about his adopted country’s alluring, dangerous contradictions. Though his work in a gritty urban hospital is grueling, Anil is determined to carve out his own life in America.
At home, Leena dreams of marriage, a strong and true love like the one shared by her parents, and leaves her beloved home to join her new husband’s family in a distant village.
Then things start to go wrong: Anil makes a medical mistake with tragic results, his first love begins to fray and a devastating event makes him question his worth as a doctor and as a friend. On a visit home, Anil rekindles a friendship with the woman who seems to understand him better than anyone else. But their relationship is complicated by a fateful decision made years earlier.
As the two old friends discover each other again, they must also weigh the choice between responsibility and freedom, and between loyalty and love.
Anil has been looking forward to his medical training in America but comes to realize that his training is going to be much harder than he had imagined. He begins to enjoy many of the freedoms offered and even has a girlfriend for the first time in his life. While Anil is enjoying all that America has to offer, including racism and prejudice, his childhood friend is dealing with the worst that marriage has to offer back home in India. Both Anil and Leena must deal with massive disappointments in The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.
Anil has always been the favored son, primarily because he is the eldest, and because he showed such promise in school. Although his family is held in high regard in rural India, outside of his village, Anil is just another intelligent and educated Indian male. Anil knows that he has to live up to his parent’s expectations and he strives to be the best he can be. His struggle to succeed hits a wall during his internship and residency training in America. He begins to second-guess his decisions and constantly worry that he might say or do the wrong thing. The one good thing he’s experienced in America is his friendships with his roommates and his relationship with his girlfriend, Amber. Anil’s life takes a dramatic turn after his father’s death. He becomes the person responsible for arbitrating disputes in his family’s rural area, even doing so by phone. Anil struggles with the responsibilities of being an arbiter and a resident. While Anil is dealing with life in America, Leena is dealing with married life in India. Her husband’s family showed themselves to be wealthy and respectable people. After her marriage, Leena learns that the family lives in a home that requires numerous repairs and all they wanted was a live-in servant. She works around the clock preparing food, cleaning the house, and washing clothes. Her in-laws begin to extort money and more from Leena’s parents when they speak of their dissatisfaction with Leena’s abilities. Cutoff from her family and treated horribly from her in-laws, Leena begins to wonder if she can endure and survive. Tragedy strikes for both Leena and Anil and they must make decisions that will have repercussions for themselves, their friends, and their families.
I found The Golden Son to be a fast-paced and wholly enjoyable read. Yes, there are some tragic events that take place in the story, but the overall story is about becoming not only self-aware but self-assured. I enjoyed the parallel stories of Leena and Anil, as well as how the stories intersect with their childhood friendship, Leena’s friendship with Anil’s sister, and the fact that both families are from the same village. There’s another intersection that occurs due to money and advice, but you’ll need to read the story to learn about this one. Ms. Gowda has an amazing ability to craft characters and stories that pull this reader in, to the point where I become invested and want to learn more about the characters and what happens next. The Golden Son vividly portrays the struggle of an immigrant to America, as well as the struggle to continue to adhere to familial and cultural values and mores. If you enjoy reading stories about love, loyalty, and family then you’ll definitely want to read The Golden Son. If you’ve read Secret Daughter then you’ll want to add The Golden Son to your TBR list. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Gowda then I strongly urge you to read both Secret Daughter and The Golden Son. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Gowda in the future.