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The Shape of Family

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,070 ratings  ·  171 reviews
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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 17th 2020 by William Morrow (first published October 15th 2019)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,070 ratings  ·  171 reviews

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Katie B
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
Elyse  Walters
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
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
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
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarything
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.
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
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
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!!
Nancy Brooks Bourne
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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.
Nic Nacks Corner
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
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 ...more
Smitha Murthy
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 ...more
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rachel Moser
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One event changes a whole family
Glenna Pritchett
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs, 2020-books
The Shape of Family is a heartbreaking window into a family whose grief caused each of them to draw away from the others and self-destruct in different ways. Young Karina self-destructed most of all, caught between the cultures of her parents, Indian and American, and so burdened by grief and guilt that she was nearly destroyed.

I read Ms. Gowda's book The Golden Son awhile back and was impressed by her beautiful prose, so I was eager to pick up this one. I recommend it to readers who enjoy
I was so excited when I heard Gowda had written a new book because I enjoyed her first two titles so much. She didnt disappoint!

Like author Jhumpa Lahiri, Shilpi Somaya Gowda is able to capture the emotional complexities of South Asian immigrants who are torn between two cultures and who struggle to come to terms with what their new home is offering against the expectations of their families. In the case of The Shape of Family, the family must also contend with a tragedy that cracks their
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent story. A family divided by a tragedy and brought back together by a second near tragedy.

Unwittingly I was pulled into reading the second book about a commune in less than a month. This one was The Sanctuary and more modern day. Same principle.

Well developed characters. I could empathize with each one of them throughout the book.

A complete departure from this author's previous books.
Dawn CM
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my, a gorgeous book. It was difficult sometimes to read about Karinas endless bad choices. I really enjoyed Jayas and Keiths struggles and realizations and the people they became in the end. The threads of gardening and food and prayer that were woven throughout were beautiful. Such a great read. ...more
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this family drama book. Lots of layers to the story, which made you hafta keep going. Nicely done!

Thanks to author,publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free,it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: family-fiction
This is a beautifully written story about a family and how grief affected them as a family and as individuals. The story is told by each of the family members but Karina's story is the central part of the novel. The novel begins with them as a cohesive family but grief makes them take their own paths and follow their own plans for the future.

The family is made up of
-Keith, a banker from Philadelphia
-Jaya, the daughter of an Indian diplomat
-Karina - their 11 year old daughter who is a headstrong
Azita Rassi
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 readers intelligence or her own writing skills because she feels the need to drive her point home again and again and again. And thats 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, ...more
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
One of the most memorable books I have had the pleasure of reading was Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. When I learned of this authors latest book, I couldnt wait to start it.

In The Shape of Family, the author continues to engage the reader. Her words reveal the most intimate thoughts of the members of the Olander family who attempt to survive and carry on after a tragic event. Although the book is told from the standpoint of each of the four members of the family, much of the story is
Linda Cousens
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book drew me in from the very first page. What a beautiful, poignant story of tragedy, love lost and found, and the ties that bind a family. Karina's life as a teenager and young adult is portrayed with the use of many nuances and is both compelling and powerful. I highly recommend this very emotional novel.
Teena in Toronto
Nov 11, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
I got about a quarter of the way in and couldnt read any more ... I found it really dreary and depressing. ...more
Mar 10, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-releases
March 10, 2020:

✔ raises questions about what constitutes a family
✔ explores the themes of belonging in a community, in a family, and in oneself
✔ some call it a masterpiece of cultural literature
✔ comparable to Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows and A Place for Us
✔ capture the emotional complexities of South Asian immigrants

Mentioned on the blog: Fanticipating Reads of March 2020 | Five Under-Hyped Diverse Books To Look Out For This Month
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of those books that got better and better as I continued reading it. It is amazing how life events, people, or ideas can alter the course of our lives affecting the decisions we make, the people we choose to associate with , and the mindsets we adapt. Karina Olander goes through severe ups and down after the death of her brother. All of her choices begin to accumulate and she is forced deal with with the weight of her decisions and their consequences without much guidance and ...more
Taylor Grace
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got this book as a recommendation...again. It's a book about a family and what happens to them when tragedy strikes. I didn't know the author or the book or anything about the story. I just picked it up and read the first chapter and was hooked.

More than anyone else in the family, I related to Karina, the daughter who struggles to find find herself and discover who she is. I loved how determined she was and how hard she worked at her studies. Having always been a type-A personality, that part
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I won this book on a goodreads giveaway. This was a fascinating look at one family's way of dealing with the death of a family member, and how each of them assimilated their supposed guilt into their lives. I read through a range of emotions; horror, devastation, sympathy, outrage, pity, love and satisfaction. A great read, by a wonderful author.
Joan Austen
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Her third book about an intercultural couple facing a family crisis, immensely readable.
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Shilpi Somaya Gowda 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, published in 2010. It was a New York Times and #1 international bestseller, and was translated into over 30 languages. Secret Daughter was shortlisted for the South African Boeke Literary Prize, longlisted for ...more

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