Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Published March 2020 by William Morrow
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
The Olander family embodies the modern American Dream 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 and how to move from a painful past into a hopeful future. It is a profoundly moving exploration of the ways we all seek belonging—in our families, our communities and ultimately, within ourselves.

My Thoughts:
This is such a tough book to review without giving too much away. It's always hard to read about a family falling apart.Suffice to say, it's a punch in the gut...again and again. It was almost too much for me to handle, at time; some of it struck too close to home.

Gowda tells her story from each of the family member's point of view so we have the opportunity to see how the tragedy affects each of them and how it tears them apart just when they so desperately need each other. In that way, it feels very real. Gowda does, as one might expect in a work of fiction, show each of her characters battling specific issues, every one of them finding their way through self-destructive excesses.

Karina is a bright, driven young woman who struggles with both her grief and her identity. Her ethnicity weighs heavy on her growing up in California where her looks and family make her different. She spends her first 18 years with only one real friend and never dates. When she takes that background, the family tragedy, and the collapse of her family to college it's not surprising that she is quickly caught up when she finally feels she's found her people and love. But she hasn't left her pain behind and she spirals out of control.

While it sometimes felt like Gowda fell back on stereotypes and may have tried to cover too many themes, this is a book that pulled me into the story and kept my attention. I can't help but wonder how I might have felt if I'd read this book at a different time, at time when the world wasn't spinning out of control and I could better handle a book with so many heavy themes.

For other opinions, check out the full tour. You might also want to look it up reviews on Goodreads; people reviewing it there loved this book, especially Gowda's fans. If you've loved her other books, I think you're going to love this one, too.

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Her previous novels, Secret Daughter and The Golden Son became international bestsellers, selling over one million copies worldwide. 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, Instagram, and Twitter.

Thanks to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!


  1. Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours