Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal

The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal tells the story of Isha Tilak, a young woman living in India with her husband and daughter. As the book opens the Tilaks discover they are expecting a second daughter. Although the news of another daughter brings happiness to Isha and her husband Nikhil, it dismays Nikhil's parents who see another daughter as a burden since the family will ultimately need to pay a dowry to marry the daughter off and they anxiously await a male heir. Along with the Tilak's doctor (yes, you read that right), Nikhil's parents urge the couple to abort their unborn daughter. Isha and Nikhil vehemently refuse and Nikhil is found brutally murdered shortly after the refusal to abort. At this point, Isha's story really begins - she is forced to face her in-laws and life without her husband alone.

Sex selective abortion, although illegal in India, is actually quite prevalent. Long assumed to be more of a problem among the poor, a study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, reveals that sex-selective abortions are rising in the educated, more affluent Indian classes. The Tilaks fit that profile perfectly - they are affluent and educated. After Nikhil's death, Isha really fears for her unborn daughter and knows Nikhil's parents will only treat her as indifferently as they have their first daughter. She is forced to make difficult decisions and face life on her own for the first time in her life. She develops strength she didn't know she had, becomes independent and makes protecting her daughters her ultimate priority.

Isha's story is compelling and I certainly found myself wanting to read more to see how she would overcome all the obstacles placed in her path. In parallel to Isha's growth into an independent woman, the novel also explores the mystery of Nikhil's death. The mystery element also kept me reading. The book is a quick relatively uncomplicated read but tells an important story. Although the issue of sex-selective abortion is the backdrop of the novel, the author does not preach but rather raises awareness about this issue by telling Isha's story and drawing the reader in with interesting characters and a plot that moves. I will definitely be looking for other books by this author

7 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, that sounds like a heartbreaking story. I wish we could figure out a way to stop senseless things like that. I'm adding this to my wish list.

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  2. I've added it to my wish list. I am sure it's going to be one of those stories that will stay with you forever...

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  3. I didn't realize how prevalent this practice was, Colleen. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention!

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  4. I have to say I read another book by this author and did not care for it.. it read like a romance more than literary. But I agree this topic is important. I think 20/20 the other night was about this topic as well.

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  5. Jenny - I could see how her novels would read more romance - this one was definitely on that edge but I still liked it. 20/20 was on exactly this topic last night - it inspired me to get my review finished and posted. I read the book back in Feb!

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  6. What a lovely cover on The Forbidden Daughter. (I read another book by this author and enjoyed it).

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