The House of Hidden Mothers by Meera Syal
Here’s an awesome and unexpected library find to get our brains thinking for the new year!
Title: The House of Hidden Mothers
Author: Meera Syal
Publish Date: June 4, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher’s Description: Shyama, a forty-eight-year-old London divorcée, already has an unruly teenage daughter, but that doesn’t stop her and her younger lover, Toby, from wanting a child together. Their relationship may look like a cliché, but despite the news from her doctor that she no longer has any viable eggs, Shyama’s not ready to give up on their dream of having a baby. So they decide to find an Indian surrogate to carry their child, which is how they meet Mala, a young woman trapped in an oppressive marriage in a small Indian town from which she’s desperate to escape. But as the pregnancy progresses, they discover that their simple arrangement may be far more complicated than it seems.
In The House of Hidden Mothers, Meera Syal, an acclaimed British actress and accomplished novelist, takes on the timely but underexplored issue of India’s booming surrogacy industry. Western couples pay a young woman to have their child and then fly home with a baby, an easy narrative that ignores the complex emotions involved in carrying a child.
Syal turns this phenomenon into a compelling, thoughtful novel already hailed in the UK as “rumbustious, confrontational and ultimately heartbreaking . . . Turn[s] the standard British-Asian displacement narrative on its head” (The Guardian).
Compulsively readable and with a winning voice, The House of Hidden Mothers deftly explores subjects of age, class, and the divide between East and West.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Agent Annie says…
I really enjoyed this book, especially since I was just browsing my digital public library collection and stumbled across it. I have already recommended it to a couple book clubs because there are so many themes the books explores. This book will appeal to anyone interested in womanhood, parental rights, the legal issues of surrogacy and In-Vitro Fertilization and relationships across cultures and across generations.
I particularly liked the British-Indian connection and mixture of the characters. Being a US citizen, it’s not obvious to me how much Britain influences Indian culture and vice-versa, but I really want to go visit Little India in London now.
The other part I liked about the story is that the author changes the first person narration so that the reader has a much more comprehensive understanding of how the individual characters are motivated, what the repercussions are of other’s behaviors and how often love and fear create complicated relationships. I give this book a 5.
If you liked this, you might also enjoy The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (a quote from which is the epigraph of The House of Hidden Mothers), and the non-fiction Half The Sky, by Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, about the oppression of women, particularly in 3rd world countries.