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The Shape of Family

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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.

316 pages, Hardcover

First published October 15, 2019

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About the author

Shilpi Somaya Gowda is the New York Times bestselling author of 3 novels: SECRET DAUGHTER (2010), THE GOLDEN SON (2015), and THE SHAPE OF FAMILY (2020). Her novels have been translated into over 30 languages, been #1 international bestsellers in several countries and sold more than two million copies worldwide.

Shilpi was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. In college, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage, which seeded the idea for her first novel: SECRET DAUGHTER was an IndieNext Great Read, a Target Book Club Pick, a ChaptersIndigo Heather’s Pick, and an Amnesty International Book Club Pick. It was a finalist for the South African Boeke Literary Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. It is currently in production with Amazon Studios to be a feature film, starring Priyanka Chopra and Sienna Miller.

THE GOLDEN SON was also a Target Book Club Pick, a Costco Buyer’s Pick, and was awarded the French literary prize, Prix des Lyceens Folio. THE SHAPE OF FAMILY was an international and American bestseller. Her next novel is slated for publication in 2024 in multiple territories.

Shilpi holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She has served on the Advisory Board of the Children's Defense Fund, and is a Patron of Childhaven International, the organization for which she volunteered in India. She now lives in California.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 526 reviews
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,354 reviews3,008 followers
March 2, 2020
I lost track how many times I started crying while reading this book. There were just certain things that really resonated with me. I think books sometimes find their way into your life at the right moment and I think that is the case here. Had I read this book six months ago or a year from now maybe I wouldn't have felt such an emotional impact.

I normally write a synopsis in my reviews but in my opinion the publisher's synopsis is perfect as it gives you an idea of what the book is about but it doesn't reveal too much. I honestly think the best way to read this book is without knowing any major plot points ahead of time. Kudos to the person who wrote the synopsis as it allowed me to have a much more meaningful reading experience.

The book follows all four family members but I think it's fair to say Karina is the lead character as she is featured the most in the story. It's amazing how there's hardly anything I have in common with her but yet she had certain feelings I could easily relate to. And that right there is the reason why this was a special read for me. There were a few passages in the book that were powerful in that the author was able to convey a thought or feeling I've struggled to articulate in the past.

This was a five star read for me but I wouldn't say it was a perfect read. Karina's storyline in the second half was hard to get thru however, I do believe it was necessary for her journey. It's okay to read something you don't particular enjoy at the time if it leads to a deeper appreciation in the end. There is something regarding Karina that was subtle but wasn't addressed until much later in the story and I admire the author for showing some restraint. Not everything has to be spelled out for a reader especially when the character herself might not have fully wrapped her head around it. (Trying to choose my words wisely so I don't give anything away.)

I do recommend this book especially if you enjoy family dramas.

I received a free advance copy of this book from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program and the publisher. I was not obligated to post a review here and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews632 followers
January 12, 2020
I was in full tears....11% into this novel.
What is it about novels within the first 10% or 11% that punches me so hard in
the gut...that I have to stop reading and compose myself?
Old memories came flooding back.
A child dies early in this book.
I had a cousin who died the same way - at the same age- many years ago, as the child did in this novel.
A very tragic death.

Moving on....
More painful scenes continued ...
followed by ongoing despondent prose.
Other than the emotional devastation at the beginning....
it didn’t take long to see that the writing had that ‘cut-by-numbers’ crafting that I so tired of....a familiar formula.

The story has predictable dialogue stereotyping each of the characters.

Jaya/mother says:
“The prospect of letting her first born go into the world reminded her inescapably of the child who had left her naturally years ago”.

Karina....( first born child)
...was looking forward to a fresh start.... moving away to college, making new friends, with hopes of no longer cutting herself in a new environment.

“had been dating freely— though only for casual recreation—for years now”

Prem says...
“When I was alive...
“I liked being a pair with....
his sister, a pair with his mom, a pair his dad”... etc.

The author shows us how each character, ( Keith, Jaya, Prem, and Karina), handled their grief and moved on.
She examines different solutions:
Self-harm, obsessive working, a spiritual path, divorce, coming of age, and ‘time’... years moving on.

Unfortunately- lightness doesn’t comes flooding down the pipes.... rather it’s doled out in droplets....

It wasn’t only the content’s bleakness that was wearisome-
I’m not a fan of dead-children narrators. I felt as if the author included the dead boys point of view so that ‘readers’ could handle the grief of a young child dying.
First we get a horrific tragedy - but then we get comforted by the person we’re hurting for?/! It felt a little ( forgive me) > manipulate, directing our feelings, not trusting our own?/! Not sure I’m communicating myself correctly... but I was very aware of what didn’t feel right.
We got a play on emotions.
As if the child was saying:
“It’s cool, I’m ok. I don’t blame anyone for my death....
yep, it’s cool, I’m cool”.

Each family member was more heartbroken than angry.
That we get!
Our author must have the most loving sincere heart. Her care for her characters - comes through loud and clear.
This story is based in realism ...
I appreciate the tenderness and honesty the writing comes from...but it lacked styling flair, freshness, and interesting character ranges.

I probably just read too much...nothing was new for me... but I think many people will like this book...
about a family, tragedy, grief, moving on....

Thank you HarperCollins publishers, Netgalley, and Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,255 reviews237 followers
November 16, 2022
“It seems wrong for beauty to still exist in the world, doesn’t it?”

When the curtain rises on THE SHAPE OF FAMILY, Keith Olander, a successful and wealthy investment banker, and his Indian wife, Prem, the daughter of an Indian diplomat, a dancer, and a foreign policy analyst, are living the life of a happily married couple. One might be forgiven for characterizing them as typical young California professionals living a typical privileged suburbanite life. They have two children, also typical in all of the obvious ways. Karina is a steady, serious, intelligent, well-motivated young teenage girl with a typical dose of angst and unresolved rebellion. Her younger brother Prem, simply put, is an effervescent, unstoppable, bouncy bundle of joy. Like any pair of siblings, Karina and Prem have their moments and their tiffs but it is clear that they are happy kids and love one another dearly.

If THE SHAPE OF FAMILY were a stage play, the curtain would fall on the introduction of the family in Act I on a tragic cliff-hanger, young Prem’s accidental death by drowning in the family pool with Karina nominally in charge before their parents had returned home from work. Acts II and III portray the subsequent break-up and demise of the family, following the individual self-destructive decisions of Keith, Jaya and Karina as they fail to come to grips with their grief over Prem’s untimely death. Karina moves on to center stage as she sacrifices her dreams and goals, drops out of school, effectively cuts off contact with her family and former friends, and moves into a commune ultimately revealed as a cult led by a self-serving evil fraud who will remind readers of the likes of Jim Jones or Charles Manson.

But I think more analytical readers will take home a deeper message

THE SHAPE OF FAMILY is a powerful novel (certainly based on Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s previous works SECRET DAUGHTER and THE GOLDEN SON, I had expected nothing less) when read purely as a gripping family drama. But it also provides evocative, eyebrow lifting food for thought that will bounce around in your consciousness for a good long while after you turn that final page.

Definitely recommended.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,187 reviews30.5k followers
March 31, 2020
I own all three of this author’s books. I’ve wanted to read them ever since I read rave reviews of Secret Daughter and because the author and I share a beloved alma mater. I’m so grateful I finally read a book of hers and that it was The Shape of Family.

I think the best compliment we can give to a book is that we connected with it. Who knows what the thread or threads may be; sometimes I think it’s a familiar experience or circumstance. Mostly it’s brought on by feelings as if we can insert ourselves into this story. That’s how I felt about The Shape of Family. It’s so profound and relatable that I could also be living this story.

The Shape of Family is the story of the Olanders. Jaya and Keith represent the American dream with their beloved children, Karina and Prem, living in sunny California.

A tragedy strikes this family, one that sends them spinning for years to come. It causes the family to drift apart, but the story is about how their family attempts to come back together. It’s about defining family in different ways. It’s also about finding ourselves.

If you enjoy character-driven, emotional stories of family, The Shape of Family gets my highest recommendation. Its story and characters will live in my heart for a long time.

I received a gifted copy. All opinions are my own.

Many of reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Karen.
796 reviews93 followers
December 19, 2019

WOW! This book was fantastic for me to read. I can say that I didn't like the book in the very beginning. Usually I can tell right away within the first few pages if I am going to love a book and I am going to change my perspective from now on. This book is easily one of my favorite books this year. The story was well crafted about a family who suffers one of the worst kind of tragedies and how guilt and grief splinters the family as it blows the family apart. Each person dealing with their grief in vastly different ways. It is very realistic and could easily happen to the most closely knit family living with their individual circumstances. This story is unforgettable and will haunt me in the way great contemporary literature does. It is really a character study that ensues with the fallout of one of the worst kind of horrific events.

Jaya is a mother and wife who was born in India who emigrates to London where she meets Keith who was born in the United States. They get married and have a teenager daughter named Karina and a younger son named Prem. As the reader gets further into the book they will read a section from all four of this families point of views. Or more accurately stated one person's point of view and sections describing the other three's narrative as they carry onward. I could relate to these character's and even though I wouldn't have done what Karina did I found that it was realistic and could easily happen. I am trying really hard not to supply any information that would spoil it for any reader. Suffice it to say that although sad, this is ultimately a beautiful story and the writing is lovely and there is ultimately hope. I have not read any of this Author's previous two novels but I am definitely going to look into reading them next. I highly recommend this to everybody.

Thank you to Net Galley, Shilpi Somaya Gowda and HarperCollins Publishing for generously providing me with my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. I really loved this.
Profile Image for Jennifer Blankfein.
384 reviews655 followers
September 15, 2020
Lots of tears were shed as I read about the Olander’s. After trauma strikes, this family falls apart as each person deals with pain, sadness and loneliness in their own ways.

The Shape of Family is an emotional story of a family in crisis. Despite the sadness, I loved it.

The Olanders lived the American dream. Jaya, a diplomat’s daughter from India, and Keith, a bank executive from Pennsylvania met in London in the late 1980s and years later made a beautiful home together in California with their teenage daughter, Karina and young son, Prem. After an unspeakable tragedy that changes their lives forever, this broken family is fractured and each one experiences their own difficult journey to come to terms with what happened, to find themselves again and to reconnect as a family.

Feeling very alone, Jaya, finding comfort in her culture, and puts her heart and soul into the spirituality she learned from her mother back in India. Keith puts his energy into his career but not with the most favorable results. Karina engages in self harm, joins a cult and makes questionable choices as she embarks on her own, and Prem watches from above as his beloved family is shattered without him.

I loved how author Shilpi Somaya Gowda got into the heads of each of her characters as they travelled their own individual paths, and I especially enjoyed Prem’s insightful observations. Lots of tears were shed as I read about the Olanders. Watching this family fall apart after trauma and seeing how each person dealt with pain, sadness and loneliness in their own ways was very emotional. The road to healing can be lonely and dangerous, but it can also bring people who care for each other back together and offer hope for the future. I was captivated by The Shape of Family and highly recommend this powerful and beautiful story.
Profile Image for Anja.
139 reviews41 followers
September 7, 2020
Ich möchte dem Buch gern 4,5 Sterne geben
Ein sehr beeindruckender Roman über das Gefüge einer Familie,was hält sie zusammen, was treibt sie auseinander , vor allem wenn eine schlimme Katastrophe diese ereilt. Das Buch hatte eine absolute Sogwirkung auf mich und jeder Protagonist mit seiner eigenen Geschichte hat mich in den Bann gezogen. Warum war es kein 5⭐Buch?! Das Ende war zu rund/ zu perfekt, da hätten ein paar Kanten oder kleine Fragezeichen gut getan,aber das ist Meckern auf hohem Niveau😉.
Profile Image for WhiskeyintheJar.
1,321 reviews542 followers
March 18, 2020
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When tragedy befalls a family, blame and grief widen the cracks and isolate the remaining members. A mother who misses her culture, a father who is a workaholic, and a daughter who is searching for an outlet for the pain. The Shape of Family is an intimate portrayal of how lost someone can get when a loved one is taken away and how families can grieve together and separately, trying to find their way back to one another.

Everyone in her family had their secrets, and Karina became practiced at keeping them.

Utilizing first person povs, The Shape of Family, jumps povs and time periods (mostly linearly) between Jaya (mother), Keith (father), Karina (daughter/sister), and Prem (son/brother). The story starts introducing the family through Karina's eyes and we learn that she sees it as Prem and her against the world. With an Indian mother and American father, kids at school constantly remark on her skin tone. Her mother is proud of her culture, while Karina sees any hallmark of it as another way to make her different. She's a bit closer to her father because of this issue and while she has a bestfriend Izzy, Karina ultimately sees Prem as the only one who can feel like her and understand.

This sets-up the emotional foundation for when a couple chapters later, Prem drowns in the family pool. Karina is thirteen at the time and watching him while her parents are at work, she performs CPR but is unable to save him. The guilt she feels from this is obvious and as readers follow her throughout her life, this tragedy and guilt is apparent in every decision she makes. We get povs from her parents, Jaya's guilt sends her searching for answers, which she looks for in religion, and Keith's guilt at his inability to keep his wife from depression and daughter from pushing him away has him throwing himself more into his work. The story though, mainly follows Karina.

“Mr. and Mrs. Olander,” the officer says as they reach the top landing, her hand on the door handle. “I'm not sure what's happening with your daughter. All I know is she needs your love and support right now.”

Karina tries to handle her grief through cutting but when she goes off to college, she finds relief in becoming a new person, no one knowing about Prem. This pushing away and ignoring those emotions works for awhile, until her first love ends up being her first heartbreak and she once again is lost as to how to deal with her pain. Her vulnerability is taken advantage of and Karina finds, what she thinks of as love and family, in a commune with increasingly cult like actions.

This was a poignant dip into how grief can affect a family individually and as a whole. While we get pov looks into how Jaya and Keith are handling their son's death, I thought there could have been more between the two; they divorce and I thought we missed reading/feeling some of that emotional upheaval. Readers also get Prem's pov after he dies and I'm not sure this worked for me. Except for a crossroads moment towards the end, his pov didn't add anything for me and I think having him completely absent would have made the characters stark cut-off even more felt to the reader.

They are flawed, all three of them, but they belong to each other.

Whims of fate, Keith ended up surviving 9/11 because of a delayed meeting but their son drowns in the family pool, and the fact that there is no set time on how long grief can keep a hold of you, were achingly apparent in this story. The way the characters tried to fill their lives with things that turned out to be empty for them and beginning to see that acknowledging, addressing, and processing their emotions through therapy was helpful to them, was deep and thoughtful. The Shape of Family will have you shedding a tear or two as the Olander family rides the waves of grief.
Profile Image for Laurie • The Baking Bookworm.
1,450 reviews377 followers
November 21, 2019
In her latest book, Shilpi Somaya Gowda beautifully and sensitively details how a tragedy and its aftermath tears a family apart as each member struggles to deal with the devastating loss that has crippled their family.

With her wonderfully descriptive prose, Gowda brings readers into the Olander family with much of the book detailing how each family member handles their grief in vastly different ways. This is a quieter, slowly paced read that may not have twists and turns but will give readers much to think about making it an excellent book club selection.

This is a poignant and honest look at how grief affects people differently. I believe readers who have experienced such a loss will especially connect with the Olander family's journey from paralyzing grief, to their subsequent disconnection from each other and onward into healing as this family begins to understand what it means to be a family again.
Profile Image for Nursebookie.
2,192 reviews342 followers
April 3, 2020
I really enjoyed this hearbreaking family drama read about a family who suffered through a painful tragedy. The writing was beautiful, sensitive and realistic that I related to the characters immediately.

This was my first book with Gowda and she became a favorite very quickly. This was an amazing character driven story in which the readers will experience how each of the family members dealt with this terrible tragedy in each of their own way. Warning - the first 10 percent of the book had me in tears so make sure to have some tissues handy.

The Olander family consisted of Jaya, the mother and wife from India who immigrates to London and meets her future husband, Keith an American from Philadephia. Karina is their teenage daughter and the younger son is Prem. The story was centered on their daughter Katrina 11 yo who is quite headstrong and obviously hurting and follows through as she is leaving for college. Her path to separate away from her family from the hurt that has not healed, will be the poignant part of the story as she is reeled back to the family that love her the most.

I truly enjoyed reading about this family and I felt that through her writing, Gowda really had a deep understanding on the human experience of anger, grief and loss.
Profile Image for Marjorie.
551 reviews57 followers
February 20, 2020
A moving, poignant portrait of what grief can do to a family. This is a very realistic story, even though there are chapters written by a ghost (those are some of the most heart rending chapters). Each member of the family take turns telling their story and some of the chapters I liked much more than others. At one point, I did begin to lose interest in the parents' tales. Karina's story is the most touching. Recommended.
Profile Image for Lyne .
302 reviews5 followers
March 14, 2021
4.5 stars

This book has been sitting in my eReader TBR list for almost a year. I loved Ms. Gowda’s previous books the Secret Daughter and The Golden Son. But, for some reason, I never got around to reading this one. I wish I had started it sooner, it’s a great, beautiful read.

Ms.Gowda is a true storyteller. She puts you in the story and you can connect with the characters. This story is about this “ideal” family. A dad. A mom. Two kids, a boy and a girl. Everyone is happy and living the dream in sunny California. However, one day, the dream shatters and everyone is off in different directions. For years, everyone tries to deal with the tragedy and their guilt. You live their struggles. You feel the pain. You empathize with their choices. You root for the individuals in their attempts to keep it all together. You hope for their success to reconnect as a family.

A great read! Don’t delay like I did. Pick it up now and start reading.

Profile Image for Nursebookie.
2,192 reviews342 followers
April 5, 2020
I really enjoyed this hearbreaking family drama read about a family who suffered through a painful tragedy. The writing was beautiful, sensitive and realistic that I related to the characters immediately.

This was my first book with Gowda and she became a favorite very quickly. This was an amazing character driven story in which the readers will experience how each of the family members dealt with this terrible tragedy in each of their own way. Warning - the first 10 percent of the book had me in tears so make sure to have some tissues handy.

The Olander family consisted of Jaya, the mother and wife from India who immigrates to London and meets her future husband, Keith an American from Philadephia. Karina is their teenage daughter and the younger son is Prem. The story was centered on their daughter Katrina 11 yo who is quite headstrong and obviously hurting and follows through as she is leaving for college. Her path to separate away from her family from the hurt that has not healed, will be the poignant part of the story as she is reeled back to the family that love her the most.

I truly enjoyed reading about this family and I felt that through her writing, Gowda really had a deep understanding on the human experience of anger, grief and loss.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
5,268 reviews195 followers
March 16, 2020
If the story of the Olander's does not tug at your heart strings; I don't know what to tell you. I felt every emotion that Jaya, Keith, and Karina experienced. There is grief, anger, guilt, loneliness, forgiveness, and happiness.

This book is told from each family member's point of view. Alternating between each family member; draws me the reader into the story more. Therefore, I form a strong emotional connection to everyone. The actions that each family member did, I did not judge them but understood the "why".

To quote Prem "I've been with my family ever since that day, and if they could really let go of all those feelings of guilt and sadness, they would feel me there."

The Shape of Family is not to be missed! The Olander family will stay with you long after you have finishing reading this book.
Profile Image for Irene.
74 reviews1 follower
December 30, 2019
I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Daughter by this author, but I found this book rather far fetched and Karina to be extremely naive and unbelievable. You could tell exactly where the plot was going. I was expecting more from this author.
242 reviews3 followers
October 31, 2019
Another beautiful book that warmed my heart. AND I finally learned why my farming friends leave their eggs on the counter. I have wanted to know this for 40 years probably!!
Profile Image for Kim.
716 reviews
September 7, 2020
4.5 stars ✨ I couldn’t put this down. A beautiful story that is raw, sad and hopeful. Do yourself a favor and read this one! 🙌
Profile Image for Nancy Brooks Bourne.
214 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2019
I struggled between 4 and 5 stars on this one. As much as I loved this book I was really annoyed by the lack of support and blatant ignorance the parents had for Karina. I know this makes the basis for the story but how can you be so oblivious to your hurting daughter....if the adult in a situation is hurting then you know the child in the same situation is hurting just as much or more.
Profile Image for Azita Rassi.
581 reviews29 followers
March 4, 2020
3.5 stars rather. This is a very easy read. You can practically glide through the pages. What made me take away those stars was that this book is more tell than show. At times you feel that the writer is underestimating either the reader’s intelligence or her own writing skills because she feels the need to drive her point home again and again and again. And that’s a loss because otherwise the story is beautiful. This is a novel that should have been a superb novella with the help of a talented, ruthless editor.
Profile Image for Bookworm.
1,007 reviews148 followers
October 15, 2020
There are just certain books that resonate and bring out a symphony of emotions. This was one. I cried so much that it took some time before my red swollen eyes recovered! How are families shaped by a devastating accident? This book explored just that by focusing on one family and their fall out from a tragedy. It delivered a powerful and thoughtful account of how each person takes their own path to manage pain and ultimately comes to terms with it. It focused more specifically on the lies we tell ourselves, and the faulty beliefs that guide our actions. It also highlighted bi-racial and coming-of-age challenges. With flavours of Celeste Ng’s book Everything I Never Told You, this story captures the essence of what it means to be a family and how we are all flawed. Absolutely loved this literary fiction.
Profile Image for Nic Hobbies .
57 reviews30 followers
August 10, 2020
The Shape of Family

By Shilpi Somaya Gowda


This is a beautiful story of a family dealing with loss and grief all in their own individual ways We follow Karina, Jaya, Keith, and Prem. Prem is the youngest of the family and the one we lose early on that set into motion our story. Prem is used as an observer of his family. Karina is our main player in this story, and we follow her life and as it is. We get to touch base with both Jaya and Keith and how they each deal with grief. Shilpi has a strong voice and it shows through in this beautiful work. 

Body of story/Summary: 

Shilpi Gowda knows how to build a strong story around her characters. Karina is a young woman fumbling her way through life the best she can, carrying her guilt for her loss of her younger brother. The way she moves through this story is almost like a glimpse into someone's real life. It is hopeful and tragic all at once. This is a story that is about a family falling apart at the seems only trying to hold it together with little luck. The ending is bittersweet.


This is a Novel that was sent to me as an Advance Reader Copy from Harper Collins to read and review. When I started the book I wasn't hooked. When I got to page fortysomething I was hooked and engrossed into the story. I connected with each character individually for different reasons. I could feel the pain as it was conveyed through words, I was also able to feel hope when it was given. This is one of the most well written novels I have read. As it's not my general style of book that id pick up myself but now I'm going to find more books by Shilpi Gowda to read as I am now a fan of her writing.     


This book feels real when you read it as if you're looking in on a family's life. The story has its ebbs and flows of sadness and happiness all throughout the story. I can connect with the feeling of wanting to fit in and making mistakes and trying my best to keep my head on straight. This book is quite enjoyable with its beginning, middle, and end. I loved this story, I'm sure anyone who can connect emotionally with characters are going to be growing with them in their fictional life. 

Author's Voice:

Shilpi's voice is wonderful and mature. The way the story is written feels autobiographical although it is fiction. Any voice that can make the story seem real is succeeding at telling their story successfully. 

Did the Author achieve their goal?:

I believe Shilpi achieved her goal and took it home at the end of the story. Her storytelling will be enough to sell this book, the story is A1 material.


I am going to have to recommend this story to anyone who loves a great family story, or a story about finding your way through life. There is nothing about this book that is mundane the story always moves forward and you feel how the characters are feeling. This is truly a book for anyone.   


I am going to tell everyone to read this masterpiece of literature. Thank you to Harper Collins and Shilpi Gowda for giving me this book in advance to read, it was very enjoyable and rewarding to read. It's on shelves now. Go check it out.

Please Check it out my video here: https://youtu.be/a4xJ_k90kPU
Profile Image for Swati.
381 reviews56 followers
November 12, 2019
This book drew me into its folds right from the first page. I was utterly lost in the fortunes and misfortunes of the Olanders and I finished reading it in one day. I loved the sensitive and very keenly observed patterns of grief that each person goes through, and I think this portrayal is one of the best I have read. The story is cleverly structured to mirror the lives of the family. It begins with chapters that encompass the entire family, and then diverges into the individual stories of each person as they go their separate ways.

The book loses a star only because it stumbles towards the end with the introduction of, what I feel, some unnecessary plot lines. I also didn't quite understand the purpose of Prem's voice in the middle. Ok, it doesn't need a purpose but somehow it was distracting, like a page hanging loose from a book.

A lovely read. I can't wait to read some of Shilpi Gowda's other books.
Profile Image for Asheley T..
1,340 reviews118 followers
April 1, 2020
The Shape of Family is the story of the Olander family’s experiences with grief after tragedy.

I have had loss in the not-too-distant past, and that was the main reason that I picked up this book. I’ve moved far enough along in my own process of grief that I felt like I could handle seeing what the experiences of other people may be like. Grief crippled me for a long time and I was curious to see if my own experience comes anywhere close to that of the Olander family.

In some ways, I really felt what they were going through. Grief and the sadness comes in waves. It is not linear. So it is entirely possible to be extremely sad but have little spots of smiles or happy things sprinkled here and there. It is possible to feel two conflicting things at once. With this family, there were a few little glimpses of lighter times and maybe even some happiness for this family here and there, but they mostly experienced devastation for a while, and I could really feel that from them. I could also relate to the main character Karina in that we both experienced major feelings of guilt, although we took different paths to a positive outcome. I went to extensive grief counseling; Karina made decisions that made things much worse for her, and she held all of her feelings on the inside while her life came apart.

Where this story did not match my experience is this: everyone in this family chose different paths to take. They did not turn to one another in the aftermath. And every choice, at least for a while, seemed like it was bad, like the characters just weren’t themselves. Everyone completely changed their lives in the wake of the tragedy. They lived parallel lives but they did not talk about what they had experienced, what they were feeling, how they were doing. All throughout the story, I felt myself reacting outwardly to so much of what was going on in the lives of these characters, especially Karina.

I just wanted to reach into the story and move around things a bit so they would turn back to one another as a family. Ultimately the characters did make some positive progress by the end of the story, but it felt really stressful watching them get to that point. Mind you, this was not because of the writing, because the story flowed well and brought forth emotions and was easy to read. What I felt was because I wanted these characters to be okay and to be healthy in their lives and in their choices, and it just wasn’t something that I could help them with because I wasn’t IN the story with them.

I think that readers that love reading emotional stories and stories about multicultural families will enjoy this one. This is a good one to show how difficult it can be for people to experience grief and it shows that the process really is very personal for every person.

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Thank you, William Morrow Books!

Find this review and more like it on my blog, Into the Hall of Books!
Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 410 books688 followers
April 7, 2020
I’ve fallen in love with Shipli’s writing with her debut novel... And I became her Serbian editor... That makes me non-objective reader :)
This novel touched me personally... My dad lost his 11 months older brother when he was 13 years old, in a similar accident, and that impacted deeply his life and his mother’s... and his younger half-brother born 4 years after the accident... That shaped my family...
So this book deals with serious things that scar family members, where they react in different ways in order to heal their wounds...

Kome su se dopale knjige "Izgubljena kći" i "Zlatni sin" dopašće se i ovaj roman... Zasad još nema izdavača u Srbiji... nažalost...
Profile Image for Denise.
758 reviews73 followers
July 20, 2020
The Shape of Family did not disappoint! This novel is hearbreaking, emotional and educational at the same time. The characters are engaging and realistic. Have your tissues ready!
Profile Image for Elena L. .
647 reviews96 followers
March 26, 2020
[3,5/5 stars]

THE SHAPE OF FAMILY is a family saga that centers around the Olander family after a terrible tragedy happens.
This book focuses on the healing process of this family, as we follow different responses from each member regarding the trauma. I enjoyed a lot the beginning which I was eager to read the Olander family's new dynamic - what was considered a healthy healing? I found myself judging quickly people's action even knowing beforehand their life's experience/struggles.

The writing style is fluid and engaging. In addition, Gowda draws us in the characters' vulnerability, driving the reader into their minds. Also, the mention of Indian culture is very interesting: music, cuisine, language.. (I was craving for Thai coconut curry and Jasmine rice!). This novel highlights loss, grief, forgiveness and religion.

While I liked the first half of the book, in my opinion the story went in an unexpected direction. It almost sounded like a "twist" from a thriller. This fact can be exciting for some readers, but it just wasn't for me. Having said that, the ending was satisfactory.

[ I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review ]
Profile Image for Jessica Haider.
1,791 reviews259 followers
April 12, 2020
Trigger Warning: Death of a child

The Shape of Family is a moving novel about the impact of grief on a family. The Oldander family lives in California living a comfortable, happy upper middle class life. Kieth works in finance and his wife Jaya is the daughter of an Indian diplomat. They have two children Karina (13) and Prem (8).

When tragedy strikes, the family is wracked by grief and starts to fall apart. Everyone struggles to make sense of their life and each follow their own paths to try to move forward. The story mainly follows Karina with occasional glimpses what the other family members are doing/thinking. When Karina goes off to college in Santa Barbara she hopes to start fresh.

The story was compelling and well written. I could see this being a TV series like This is Us...it has that sort of vibe.

I won a copy of this novel from a GoodReads Giveaway.
Profile Image for Aarthy.
142 reviews2 followers
October 27, 2019
I am a huge fan of Shilpi's novels. When I picked this up I was expecting a similar story to her past two books but I was pleasantly surprised at this plot. It is very different from her other books but in the most beautiful way possible.

This story revolves around a family and their lives after a devastating tragedy. It follows the stories of individual transformations and how we as humans go separate ways when handling with the unexpected twists and turns of life. It is creative and captivating and you become so involved with the characters that you feel like you know them. She does a fantastic job at character development throughout the book. This book really focuses on the human aspect of pain and healing in almost a poetic way. Her writing style is so beautiful I had pages bookmarked to reread the passage again and again.

Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Smitha Murthy.
Author 2 books282 followers
November 12, 2019
A quiet page-turner on grief. That's about the only way I can describe this. Melding different narratives and voices that are all held together by the fragile thread of life and the stronger pull of death, 'The Shape of Family' was fascinating and disturbing at times for me, bringing back memories of how my own family handled our grief. These last few years, I have wondered what family means - is it the family we are born into or the ones we make? What really makes a family? I don't know the answers but Shilpi Somaya Gowda has made me think.
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