I would like to thank Net Galley and Bookouture for the ARC of ‘A Mother’s Secret’ by Renita D’Silva in exchange for my review.
Jaya is a young woman who has suffered great loss in a short space of time. Struggling to come to terms with the death of both her mother, Sudha, and son, and with her marriage under great strain, she seeks help from a bereavement counsellor, who encourages her to start to go through her mother’s belongings for the answers she seeks about why her mother was so distant and why she would tell her nothing of her past or her father. When Jaya finds two diaries along with pictures of a happy smiling boy and a family that Jaya doesn’t recognise she begins to realise that there was a reason her mother was so withdrawn and that there was far more to the woman who raised her than she knew. Much of her history is told in her mother’s voice as Jaya reads through the diaries which hold the key to her past.
In India, a young girl named Durga is sent to live with her grandmother following a tragic accident which leaves both of her parents in a coma. Durga has never met her Grandmother, a large rift existing between her and Durga’s mother following her grandmother’s disapproval of Durga’s father. All she knows of the woman is that she lives in a grand ruin of a house in Gaddehalli. The house is reported to be cursed and haunted, with rumours abound that tragedy befalls all male members of the household, the reasons for the belief becoming clearer as the story gradually unfolds.
Within the house live Durga’s Grandmother, Sumathi, long ago a servant who lived and worked in the old mansion, and Kali, former servant and then Mistress of the mansion, a woman who’s past is told through a series of flashbacks as her tortured mind draws her away from the tragedy of her present to a happier time, from her first love to the birth of her first child and her quest to become the wife of the heir to the mansion. Kali is a flawed character, but one who pays the ultimate price with the loss of her love, her family and her sanity. Durga’s arrival at the house triggers something in Kali and they form a tight little friendship, and it is through a conversation between the pair that Durga learns about Kali’s daughter in law, a woman believed to have perished in the fire which ruined the house. Durga convinces her grandmother to contact the family solicitor and to hunt down the missing woman in the hope that it can bring Kali some kind of peace after all the years of hurt she has endured.
This is a beautifully written book, the descriptions so vivid and poetic that they create a clear picture of the village and the painful life that the women of this novel have lived and endured. The characters in this story are truly well developed, their lives laid out in so much detail, that you live their love and losses with them. All of their pasts are tragic in their own way, coloured by loss and pain, and it is the way their lives intersect which forms the basis of the story. There are so many elements to it; greed, envy, love, betrayal, pride and hatred, and they all serve to shape the futures of three very different women. They are woven together so well, alternating between the present in the stories of Jaya and Durga and on occasion Kali, and the past in the diaries of Sudha and the moments where Kali retreats into herself, recalling her past. Four very distinct voices, but the transition from one to the next is seamless. It is impossible not to feel for the women, even Kali who, although motivated by envy, was driven to do what she did by her father’s betrayal and the loss of her first love.
This is a tragically beautiful story, very moving and heart wrenching at times, told so well that it captures the reader and forces you to read on, to will Sudha and Kali to a happier future, even though their fates are inevitable. I highly recommend it.