Published November 2016 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher and TLC Book Tours
The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.
Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.
Confession: I have not finished this book yet. In fact, I'm not even close. December has gotten away from me and I took more on than I could chew reading-wise. Which is not to say that I'm giving up on the book (I'm certainly not!), but my actual review will not be posted until next week.
Two things made me say "yes" to this book when it was offered to me: my book club read Gowda's The Secret Daughter earlier this year and I enjoyed it a lot AND, of course, India. You know how I love to immerse myself in India and its very different culture. In The Golden Son, Anil is forced to face the many differences in lives and cultures, from farm life to life in the city and from the life of a doctor in the U.S. back to a life in an Indian small village making entirely different kinds of decisions.
Gowda has this to say about her inspiration for The Golden Son:
In India, there is a long tradition of settling disputes between individuals and families within a community. In its original form, the panchayat — the assembly (ayat) of five (panch) respected elders — was the inspiration for the name of the fictional village in this novel, Panchanagar. In less formal ways, I have witnessed the same practice of navigating disputes, in my own and other families, usually by an elder male in the family. As a child, I was not often privy to these conversations, so my imagination took over.
When I was young, I was fascinated by this practice of sorting out troubles at the kitchen table rather than the courtroom or by a formal authority figure. I became further intrigued as an adult, once I realized that grown-ups don’t have all the answers and in fact, often there is no clear answer to be had. I began to consider the burden of that responsibility on an individual, and how different people might react to the role of being the arbiter.
For the purpose of this narrative, I chose a single person, the eldest son of the clan, to be the arbiter; in reality, the practice of informal dispute resolution can happen in as many different ways as there are families. While historical experience provided the inspiration for my story, all the details of specific cases in this book are purely fictional, as are the village of Dharmala, India and the town of Ashwood, Texas.
This novel follows a young man through the three years of his internal medicine residency program at an urban American hospital in the early 2000’s. During my research process, I had the generous help of many people, including patients, hospital staff, physicians, nurses, current and former interns and residents at several medical centers across the country.
The fictional Parkview Hospital in this book is not modeled after any one hospital, nor is Anil’s experience a perfect representation of any single residency program. Rather, it is a composite based on my research. While I have tried to remain true to the spirit of the medical residency experience, which has changed over the past two decades, I have also taken creative license to change some of the details and compress timelines to suit the narrative. There are undoubtedly errors in this kind of interpretation, and those belong solely to me. I am humbled by the nobility of the medical profession; I only hope I did it justice.
To read actual reviews of the book (you know, by people who made sure they got the book read on time!), check out the full tour here. To purchase a copy of the book, check out the Harper Collins website.
About Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. She holds an MBA from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was a Morehead-Cain scholar. She lives in California with her husband and children. Find out more about Shilpi at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.