What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know this book highlights 1970s-era Indian customs that will seem very sexist (and likely unimaginable) to contemporary American girls. Asha and Reet's mother suffers from depression; the sisters must deal with a rumor that their father committed suicide. There are some oblique references to what happens on wedding nights.
What's the story?
In America, where 16-year-old Asha hopes to move when her father gets a job, girls can play sports, drive cars, and even stay single if they want. While Asha, her sister Reet, and their mother wait for news from America, they must live with relatives in Calcutta, unable to leave the house unattended or pursue their studies. Asha's only outlets are her diary, aka Secret Keeper, and her clandestine friendship with the boy next door. As Asha and Reet battle their mother's depression, a worse threat looms. What will Asha have to sacrifice to keep her promise to protect her sister and mother?
Is it any good?
SECRET KEEPER's power comes from the strong bond between Asha and her sister Reet, who brave a stinky toilet to find private time to talk. The dialogue is often clunky, however, and the adult characters are universally unappealing. The bleak picture of Indian society -- albeit 40 years ago -- may discourage readers who want to learn more about that culture.
The ending may be realistic, but girls who expect a stick-it-to-a-sexist-society finale may be disappointed by the way headstrong Asha gives in to an unfair system.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about societal expectations for women's beauty. In this book, set in the 1970s, Asha rails against women being judged on their looks. Has this expectation changed in the last 40 years? Do readers agree with Asha's sacrifice at the end of the book? Would they make the same choice, given the circumstances?