Author Shilpi Somaya Gowda Explores the Path from Tragedy to Healing in The Shape of Family

My Review:

The Shape of Family is an emotional story of a family in crisis.  Despite the sadness, I loved it.

The Olanders lived the American dream.  Jaya, a diplomat’s daughter from India, and Keith, a bank executive from Pennsylvania met in London in the late 1980s and years later made a beautiful home together in California with their teenage daughter, Karina and young son, Prem. After an unspeakable tragedy that changes their lives forever, this broken family is fractured and each one experiences their own difficult journey to come to terms with what happened, to find themselves again and to reconnect as a family.

Feeling very alone, Jaya, finding comfort in her culture, and puts her heart and soul into the spirituality she learned from her mother back in India.  Keith puts his energy into his career but not with the most favorable results.  Karina engages in self harm, joins a cult and makes questionable choices as she embarks on her own, and Prem watches from above as his beloved family is shattered without him.

I loved how author Shilpi Somaya Gowda got into the heads of each of her characters as they travelled their own individual paths, and I especially enjoyed Prem’s insightful observations.  Lots of tears were shed as I read about the Olanders. Watching this family fall apart after trauma and seeing how each person dealt with pain, sadness and loneliness in their own ways was very emotional. The road to healing can be lonely and dangerous, but it can also bring people who care for each other back together and offer hope for the future. I was captivated by The Shape of Family and highly recommend this powerful and beautiful story.


Video Interview of Shilpa Somaya Gowda


Goodreads Summary


Additional Reading Suggestion

If you enjoy books about people recovering after tragedy, try Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano.



About the Author:

Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. In college, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage, which seeded the idea for her first novel, Secret Daughter, published in 2010. It was a New York Times and #1 international bestseller, and was translated into over 30 languages. Secret Daughter was shortlisted for the South African Boeke Literary Prize, longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, was an IndieNext Great Read, a Target Book Club Pick, a ChaptersIndigo Heather’s Pick, and an Amnesty International Book Club Pick.

Her second novel, The Golden Son, was published in 2015-16 around the world, was a #1 international bestseller, a Target Book Club Pick, a Costco Buyer’s Pick, and was awarded the French literary prize, Prix des Lyceens Folio. Her first two novels have sold over two million copies worldwide, and her third novel, The Shape of Family, was published in October 2019 in Canada and March 2020 in the U.S.

Shilpi 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 has served on the Advisory Board of the Children’s Defense Fund, and is a Patron of Childhaven International, the organization for which she volunteered in India. She lives in California with her husband and children.


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