Happy Monday, Savvy Readers! If you’re as busy at work as I am, you’ll likely want a great book to kick back with to help you unwind after a long day of work. That’s why I am so excited to share this week’s 50 Book Pledge Featured Read, The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda!
If you recognize the name Shilpi Somaya Gowda, that’s likely because you’ve read one (or both!) of her critically-acclaimed, internationally, mega-bestselling novels Secret Daughter and/or The Golden Son. No one does family drama quite like Shilpi, and we are so excited for you to dive into her latest novel, The Shape of Family.
Meet the Olanders, the definition of a modern family in a globalized world. Jaya, the matriarch, is the daughter of an Indian diplomat. Keith, the patriarch, is an over-ambitious banker from middle-class Philadelphia eager to make his fortune. After meeting in a pub in London, the two end up marrying and settling down to make a life together in suburban California. Based on shared beliefs and love, the two provide a comfortable, balanced life filled with love for their two children: brilliant, headstrong Karina, and Prem, their young, always-happy son.
Unfortunately for the Olanders, however, love and prosperity cannot protect them when tragedy rears its ugly head in the shape of Prem accidentally drowning while under the supervision of his older sister. Without the light of their youngest child in the home, the Olanders are split down the middle. Jaya finds solace in a spirituality that she had once distanced herself from in her younger days. Keith, ever the workaholic, dives headfirst into his work and seeks to put the tragedy behind him by making an even bigger name for himself in the financial sphere. Karina, hopelessly adrift and filled with guilt and remorse, focuses 100% of her attention on her studies and the prospect of independence. While all of this is going on, Prem watches helplessly as his once tightly-knit family drifts apart, unable to help as he once was.
Flash forward a couple of years. Heading off to college for a fresh start and a chance at rewriting the narrative of her life, Karina’s search for identity, belonging, and purpose lead her down multiple dark paths, resulting in sexual assaults, a deep struggle with depression, and a criminal lifestyle. While all of this is going on, Karina is forced to reckon with herself, her past, and her family, and comes to terms with the secrets that the Olander family has suppressed for all these years. Despite their struggles, maybe, just maybe, the family can come together once again.
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. A moving, thoughtful, and powerful read, The Shape of Family is this week’s 50 Book Pledge Featured Read and should be the next book you add to your TBR!