A NATIONAL BESTSELLER
From the internationally 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 Olanders embody a modern family in a globalized world. Jaya, the cultured daughter of an Indian diplomat, and Keith, an ambitious banker from middle-class Philadelphia, meet in a London pub in 1988 and make a life together in suburban California. Their strong marriage is built on shared beliefs and love for their two children: headstrong teenager Karina and young son Prem, the light of their home.
But love and prosperity cannot protect them from sudden, unspeakable tragedy, and the family’s foundation cracks as each member struggles to seek a way forward. Jaya finds solace in spirituality. Keith wagers on his high-powered career. Karina focuses relentlessly on her future and independence. And Prem watches helplessly as his once close-knit family drifts apart.
When Karina heads off to college for a fresh start, her search for identity and belonging leads her down a dark path, forcing her and her family to reckon with the past, the secrets they’ve held and the weight of their choices.
The Shape of Family is an intimate portrayal of four individuals as they grapple with what it means to be a family, leaving a painful past and entering a hopeful future. It is a profoundly moving exploration of the ways we all seek belonging—in our families, in our communities and ultimately, within ourselves.
“In prose of quiet beauty, Shilpi Gowda drills down into the American Dream and comes up with pure gold. You will cry, rage, worry, and come to love the members of the Olander family.”
“This beautifully written, poignant novel explores how one loving family deals with an unspeakable tragedy. It's a novel about race and culture, parents and siblings, marriage and love, but most of all, it's about finding hope after darkness. Shilpi Somaya Gowda is a compassionate and wise storyteller who keeps us riveted from beginning to end.”
“Rendered with compassion, this is a compelling testament to a family’s struggle to find solace.”
“Shilpi Somaya Gowda has painted an unforgettable portrait of a family’s loss, longing, and reconstruction. Haunting and beautiful, The Shape of Family takes hold of you from the first page and does not let go as it explores —in the distinct and rich voices of each family member — the forces that separate and the ties that unite a mother, father, daughter and son.”
“Shilpi Somaya Gowda is as adept at crafting disparate, fully realized worlds…as she is at creating compelling characters.”
“Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s great achievement is this: she makes each locale she depicts fascinating and true and original; she makes each character she draws so heartbreakingly vibrant that even after we finish reading we can’t forget them.”
“Vivid, heart-warming, and absorbing.”
“Gowda can write up moments that break your heart.”
“A sensitive and intelligent work . . . [with a] finely drawn protagonist. . . . Demonstrates Gowda’s abilities as a sympathetic observer of heart and mind.”
“At turns harrowing and uplifting. . . . Compulsively readable and inspiring.”
“A nuanced coming-of-age story that is faithful to the economic and emotional realities of two very different cultures.”
“A moving exploration of how loss can change the contours of a life. Gowda deftly examines the forces that can make and remake a family in this engrossing page turner of a novel.”
Praise for Secret Daughter
“Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s flair for detail is evident. . . . The prose is so achingly touching, it draws the reader in with every description and emotion of the characters.”
“Gowda traces the fallout lines with compassion and a keen eye for the lies we tell ourselves to avoid facing our own demons…. A deft, patient portrait of grief.”
"A deeply involving story of a family falling apart, THE SHAPE OF FAMILY rings so true."
“A beautifully composed compelling story of love, loss, discovery and the true meaning of family.”
"A tense and moving story of tragedy, grief, and resilience, of a family confronting its darkest moments while searching for the light within. Gowda's vivid characters and glimmering prose make for an engrossing and unforgettable read."
Praise for The Golden Son