I just finished reading The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda . Although the plot of the book is a bit predictable and formulaic I enjoyed it throughly because I learned so much about India, the inner workings of a large American hospital, and the art of diplomacy.
The main character is a man named Anil. I have a friend Anil who was born in India so that was a personal connection to the book for me. Shilpi Gowda tells Anil’s story as well as that of his childhood friend Leena. In doing so Gowda teaches us much about the customs, traditions, gender role expectations and the influence of caste in India.
A good part of the story takes place in Dallas, Texas as Anil carries out a residency in an inner city hospital there. We learn about the daily life inside that hospital as Anil moves from area to area; in particular we learn about cardiology, oncology and emergency care.
How will Anil handle the freedom life in America offers him? How will he handle the discrimination he faces there because he is from a minority group? How will he balance the opportunities offered him in America with the responsibilities he still has towards his family in India? How will he explain some of his life style choices to his very traditional mother?
Most interesting to me was Anil’s role as a community diplomat, a role he takes on after the death of his father. Everyone in the neighborhood is used to coming to Anil’s father to help them settle disputes whether it be marital discord or property conflicts. Anil is expected to continue doing that work on his trips home to India and via the phone while he is in Dallas. I found it intriguing to watch as Anil develops his diplomacy skills and learns to apply some of the lessons learned to his own life.
You may have read Shilpi Gowda’s first novel The Secret Daughter. The Golden Son will no doubt be as popular largely because of the interesting subject matter it addresses.