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Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  625 ratings  ·  99 reviews
For readers of Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s "Secret Daughter" and Nancy Richler’s "The Imposter Bride", a breathtaking novel from Anita Kushwaha about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together and the secrets that tear them apart

Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and th
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by HarperAvenue
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-requests
Heart-wrenching, compassionate & an absorbing intergenerational tale!

SECRET LIVES OF MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS by ANITA KUSHWAHA was such a touching, emotional, dramatic, and powerful story that tackles the complex relationships between mothers and daughters. It is such a beautiful book filled with so much love, heart, desire, acceptance, and truth that I was immediately drawn into.

I have an absolute love for these types of tales that center around adoption and motherhood and the secrets we keep to p
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
3.5 STARS - Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters is a touching story about a small group of women whose lives are woven together as they struggle with issues of identity, insecurities, motherhood, family obligations, mental illness and the influence of culture and traditional roles on their lives.

I loved that the story was set in Ottawa, Ontario (yay Canada and CanLit!) but it was the often complicated bonds between mothers and daughters that drew me into the story. By using multiple POVs, Kush
Samantha Bailey
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was mesmerized by Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters. It’s a stunning, gorgeously written inter-generational tale about Veena, Mala, and Nandini, three very different mothers, each harboring their own secrets, and a young woman named Asha, who links them all. A layered, emotional, powerful story about duty, desire, and the secrets we keep in the name of love, it’s a book I savored through every word.
Natalie Jenner
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was unable to put down this absorbing family drama, tearing through the pages to find out both how all the different lives connected as well as their ultimate reconciliation and resolution. This is a heartbreaking yet hopeful and beautiful tale of what motherhood means, the different ways we choose to honour our parents, and the struggle to be true to ourselves. I was particularly moved by the very effective love story of Mala and Ash - I could feel their deep emotion for each other, making th ...more
Anna Kaling
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
SLOMAD is a beautiful book about three women. They all feel like real people - they have their own hopes, dreams, and fears and, crucially, the pressure of responsibilities that every generation of women, in every country, has felt. In fact, they don't just feel like real people but like friends. I hoped with them and cried with them and shut my eyes when they had to make tough decisions.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't an "issues" book. It's not there to preach at you or make some political point
Samantha Verant
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Kushwaha has delivered a beautiful book filled with heart, hope, and truth. While all the characters are beautifully rendered and as the storyline comes together, Asha's grief, her wanting to know answers (through her journal entries), really resonated with me-- best summed up with this quote: "Doesn't everyone want to know they come from love?"

Kushwaha hits the longing...the truth of all these women (the mothers, the daughters), the mistakes we make, the secrets we keep, and it made me question
Mai Nguyễn
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful novel about secrets, revelation, motherhood, family and love. The voices of the women are convincing and I feel I know them from real life. The plot is complex, and Anita Kushwaha delivers it with ease. Her prose is graceful and filled with compassion.

I really enjoy Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters. I look forward to discovering other work written by this author.
Sara T.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
TLDR; The Secret Lives is a story of adoption and motherhood that is as beautiful, compassionate, and as hopeful as it is heartbreaking.

Minor thematic spoilers follow.
In The Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters ,Author Anita Kushwaha tackles one of the most complex and complicated connections between women: the relationship between mother and daughter. It is a deep dive into those relationships, from multiple angles, and involving some incredibly complex, but beautifully written characters.

Lainey Cameron
I adored this story of how sometimes, in the attempt to do the right thing, we keep secrets that ultimately do not serve (or hurt) the ones we love. Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters offers up a poignant exploration of the different facets of motherhood.

I enjoyed how the different women’s’ stories intertwined and I especially how the novel brought me what felt like insider insights into the diversity of traditions in first generation immigrant Indian families who’ve made their homes in Cana
Eddy Tan
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a richly layered story that explores the complexities of family, our identities, and the dependencies between the two. The characters — all mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, or lovers — come to life in relatable fashion, caught between the demands of duty and their own unique desires. I found myself engrossed in this push and pull as their secrets unravelled in astonishing, sometimes heartbreaking, ways. Anita Kushwaha’s writing is gorgeous, and this story is bursting with intimacy and ...more
Kelly Duran
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-debuts
This novel was an utterly absorbing and emotional journey for me. I was immediately drawn in by each of the characters and fully invested in their stories. Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters covers so many important topics but - at its core - Kushwaha has written a wonderfully layered, multi-generational tale about the power of love and the bond of motherhood. Her writing is lyrical and powerful. The emotions her characters are feeling jumped off the page and into my own heart. I was sorry to r ...more
Ashley King
Feb 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful and lyrically written, I found it hard to put this stunning novel down. I truly cared for each of the characters, feeling completely invested in each of their stories. I smiled when they smiled and when they were in pain, I felt that to my core--that's what a fantastic job Kushwaha does at crafting her characters and their journeys. I cannot recommend SLOMAD enough and look forward to this author's next novel! ...more
Alina Boyden
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book that deals with the universal themes of love and acceptance, and the stress and joy families bring in equal measure. I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in family dramas, with the added twist of a South Asian diasporic experience.
Lisa Wilkes
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters (SLOMAD) takes readers on an emotional journey laced with unexpected twists and turns. This book opens with a touching description of a couple desperately seeking to grow their family. From the first page, SLOMAD provides a heartfelt, tender depiction of the link shared among blood- and chosen- relatives. Asha’s letters to an elusive recipient capture her longing for intimacy and connection, her yearning to communicate with a biological parent she’s never kn ...more
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I will definitely write a longer, more substantial review once I get my thoughts together, but this book is going straight onto my favorites list. The emotion Anita Kushwaha pours into this is stunning and when I reached the end I was devastated—I just wanted to read more!

It was beautiful at its start and I wanted to savor it, but I found myself racing along to find out more as Mala’s and Asha’s stories unfolded. This book is a gift.
Laura H
It was kind of cool reading a novel that was set in my old hometown of Ottawa. I liked the parallel story line of Asha, a young woman who finds out she is adopted and her birth mother, Mala, who dies a few months after her daughter's birth. It's a story that draws you in as you follow in the footsteps of two young women and their relationship with their mothers. ...more
Claire Huston
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review was originally posted on my book blog.

Tackling difficult and emotional themes such as the immigrant experience, mental health and identity, Secrets Lives of Mothers & Daughters is a moving story of the affection, obligations and traditions which maintain and break family bonds.

As in the author’s previous novel, Side by Side (click for my review), the characters are incredibly sympathetic, particularly the two young, intelligent, caring women at the centre of the dual narratives:
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazing-writing, favs
i cried very many times but wow this book was so good :") ...more
Kendra Ayers
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I received and ARC of Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters and I could not put it down. The book is full of story spinning (as I call it) with dual perspectives and rich dialogue and inner monologue. I loved all of the women represented in this book but I will start with Mala. She’s in love with a man she can never truly have. The torture of this reality, along with the surprise that comes with it, is too much for her to take on alone. I felt for her. I ached each time she lost someone close to ...more
Booksandchinooks (Laurie)
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a well written book and I really loved the connecting stories told in this book. I always enjoy family stories so this book about mothers and daughters had me intrigued. On Asha’s 18th birthday her parents tell her she was adopted as a baby. She is completely stunned to learn this and is furious at her parents for keeping this a secret for so long. Her parents have a letter from her birth mother and Asha then begins searching to learn more about her biological parents. Mala is a grad stu ...more
Niloufar-Lily Soltani
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved the unravelling mystery of Mala's life and death in this book. Anita Kushwaha's style of writing and character development was mesmerizing and poetic. The lives these characters have lived were different from the life of ordinary people in Canada. Yet, they lived among them and suffered in their vicinity while going to the same schools and colleges and hospitals. Whether Mala or Asha survived or made the wrong choices to make their traditional mothers proud and happy is why their stories ...more
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Unputdownable! I loved this absolutely stunning, beautifully-written novel about expectations, secrets, and family. Told as two intersecting storylines, Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters had me hooked from page 1 with its gorgeous prose, heartbreaking love story, and complex, compelling characters and relationships. Anita Kushwaha explores motherhood, the Indian-American experience, love, grief, and what it means to be a family in a way that reminded me of Everything I Never Told You by Cele ...more
Elizabeth  Ann Besa-Quirino
A beautiful story of 3 women- mothers and daughters whose lives are woven together seamlessly by love, family and society’s expectations.
I was drawn to the realization that in every generation, often, women’s feelings are overlooked and put aside for sacrifices they have to make, to make everyone happy. Author Anita Kushwaha eloquently puts in words how 3 women, of different ages, cope with the traditional roles their cultures expect of them. This novel was poignant and mesmerizing. I couldn’t p
Jun 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
What's with books these days jumping back and forth through time with no warning? This book lacks any sense of magnetism that would compel its readers to pick it up once more. The characters are bland and boring, their problems unrelatable and yet entirely predictable at the same time. Found this such a snore, I barely made it to the big reveal. Of course, anyone who didn't see THAT coming really must have been bored to sleep. ...more
James Fisher
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, feminist
An excellent story, and well told. 5 stars!
Enid Wray
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
As the title says, this is a novel all about secrets - and harm that comes from keeping them. The fact of multiple secrets - across generations - creates layers of mystery, but, the author lets the reader in on it quite early on. Granted perhaps not every reader will twig to it, but, for me or anyone else who does, it eliminated the sense of intrigue or mystery that had been keeping me reading.

While the novel does do a good job of exploring the cultural tensions and myriad of issues (sudden dea
Mesh Miles
I was unable to finish this book. It was long & drawn out. I didn’t like the way the author jumped from story to story. There were too many characters to follow. I feel like I know where the book is headed; the teenager who is adopted is likely the college kids child.

Reading this felt like I was in school & forced to read a book for an assignment. It wasn’t interesting to me.
Nov 12, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

The book starts of a little slow and disconnected at first, but the story ties in together very well. It is strikingly very similar to Shilpi Somay's flow of books. The story follows the saga of a family through generations and how they are tied together. I can see why it's rated highly and believe it will do well. I just did not connect with the characters as well as I hoped.

I do recommend this read and love that it's a fellow Canadian author 🇨🇦
Karolyn Feichtenbiner
May 16, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: peace-and-pages
I enjoyed this book wayyy more than I thought I would. I have read a lot of mother daughter conflict trope books recently, and I thought I might be over it. That was not the case. I thought the stories were honest and real. There were also a few plot twists and I ended up reading this book a lot quicker than I anticipated. I like how the book was formatted between the two stories and appreciated the chapter name which I don't usually pay attention to. ...more
Jun 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-reading
What a great read

From the moment I started reading this book to the very end, there isn't one part that I could say that didn't keep me interested.
Follows the main character ASHA on her journey after being told she was adopted, lots of twists and surprises to the very end.
Loved how the ending left no cliff hangers.
A must read.
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Anita Kushwaha is an award-winning Canadian author. Her road to publication included a fulfilling career in academia, where she studied human geography at Carleton University and earned an M.A. and a Ph.D as a Tri-council funded scholar, collaborating with Indigenous communities in the eastern Canadian Arctic and Ottawa on socio-cultural and environmental issues. A graduate of the Humber School fo ...more

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95 likes · 19 comments
“A family’s a fragile thing, Asha. It takes years to build and even longer to find harmony. That’s what we have, though, the three of us. I didn’t want to jeopardize that. I never wanted you to doubt your place in our family, when we’ve never doubted, not even for a second, that you were meant for us. Which is why I kept putting it off.” 0 likes
“warmth she felt when they were together was the only thing that tamed the cold beast of loneliness she had been carrying inside since finding out she was adopted.” 0 likes
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