February 25, 2020

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Gowda's latest Indian tale evades sophomore jinx

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/12/2015 (1536 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Golden Son successfully achieves the virtually impossible: it is every bit as good and strong as its author's internationally bestselling debut novel, Secret Daughter.

Gowda, born and raised in Toronto, sold more than a million copies of her first literary effort, which was also translated into more than 20 languages around the world.

Now living in California, Gowda, who has an MBA from Stanford University, recently packed Winnipeg's McNally Robinson during her first appearance in our city.

Both The Golden Son and Secret Daughter are set in India and North America. Both tell compelling stories that make each book a page-turner and a fast read. Both are extremely well-written with riveting plots. Gowda is a born storyteller.

The Golden Son focuses on Anil, who leaves his large family in rural India to do a medical residency in Dallas, Texas.

The Golden Son, Anil — his parents' first-born — becomes arbiter of village disputes in India when his father dies and leaves him with the thankless, albeit honourable task. The discussion of alternative dispute resolution in the novel is thoroughly researched and interesting to read, as is the behind-the-scenes look at hospital medicine and the gruelling challenges faced by medical residents.

As before, Gowda's characters are beautifully and subtly drawn. Anil, the conflicted physician, is trying to figure out how to balance his family in India while facing racial violence in the U.S.

He falls in love with his childhood friend Leena, who endures brutal domestic violence in her homeland. Gowda's depiction of Leena's situation is moving and believable.

Anil himself has to overcome a medical mistake that has devastating consequences. He then has to sort out his love life. Does he choose his American love or his Indian soulmate — or neither?

Gowda's writing is often poetic: "They did not acknowledge the moments before: the tender, the illicit, the innocent and the brutal — had become entangled and thus unspeakable."

Her vivid prose easily transports the reader into a large hospital emergency room: "Anil was overwhelmed by his patients' evasion and mistrust, the desperation in their eyes and voices, the scent of urine and filth."

The end-of-life decisions faced by a terminally ill patient are also sensitively and realistically handled.

The plot, with its many vicissitudes, is not easily predictable by even the most cynical of readers. This makes it even more enjoyable.

Anil's dilemma following his father's death is starkly described by Gowda: "Now he was left with his mother's expectations and his brother's hopes laced with resentment. Anil couldn't bear to cause any of them further disappointment."

The Golden Son is action-packed, with very little downtime among its chapters. It was five years in the making and well worth the wait. It deserves to achieve the same acclaim as Secret Daughter.


Brenlee Carrington, a Winnipeg lawyer and mediator, is the Law Society of Manitoba's equity ombudsperson.


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