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  • Veena Rao

Author Shilpi Somaya Gowda: Loss and grief touch all of us at some point

Indian-American author Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s first two novels, Secret Daughter and The Golden Son, have sold over two million copies worldwide. Now, she is back with her third novel, The Shape of Family. A visceral study of a California family affected by tragedy, The Shape of Family explores the themes of loss, guilt, grief, and ultimate healing with great sensitivity.

The Olanders are a multicultural California family living the American dream. Mother Jaya is the daughter of Indian diplomats, raised around the world. Father Keith is a workaholic banker from Philadelphia with middle-class roots. Teenage daughter Karina and young son Prem complete the family. A sudden tragedy tears this close-knit family apart, as each member of the family grapples with their collective loss in their individual way.

In an interview with this writer, author Gowda spoke about loss, grief, identity, and the research that went into writing The Shape of Family.

“Loss and grief are something that touches all of us at some point in our lives, and it can affect individuals and families quite differently,” she said. “The same person can have several different emotional reactions as she grieves over time. In this story, I separate some of these responses into different individuals to show how well-meaning people can still fall away from each other in the face of tragedy, and also to show the indelible strength of family in underpinning our lives.”

The story, told from the perspective of all four members of the Olander family, is also a deep exploration of identity, a longing to belong—themes that immigrant families can deeply relate to. Read full review and author interview here:

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