Reviewed by Shivani Singh
Set in the 1970’s, The Secret Keeper revolves around Asha Gupta tough life she lives at her father’s ancestral Bengali home which shows discrimination towards women. Even at the young age of sixteen, she has a dozen problematic issues eating away at her daily.
When her father loses his job in Delhi, he moves to New York in search of better opportunities. But he leaves his wife Sumitra and his two daughters back in India to live in his ancestral home until he finds a good job in America. This is a decision that doesn’t go down well with either of them. Asha’s mother falls into a heavy cloud of depression when she is away from her husband, and it is up to her two daughters Asha and Reet to deal with her. And their extended family members’ orthodox ideas and injustice towards Sumitra and her daughters only make things harder for them.
Amidst all the troubles that Asha is being bogged down by, she vents out her frustration by writing in a
diary. As it holds her most intimate thoughts and varied emotions, she calls it the Secret Keeper. To get some privacy away from the hustle-bustle around her in the house, Asha goes up to the terrace daily and writes in her diary. Here she meets Jay, a lonely young man who takes an unusual interest in her, and with time she realizes that she reciprocates his feelings.
Asha risks her family’s wrath by playing sports like cricket and tennis with boys – and crushing the belief that girls shouldn’t tread into the competitive world of sports by beating each and every one of them. Simultaneously, she also deals with unwanted attention that the house garners with young men staring through windows in order to catch a glimpse at her beautiful sister Reet. She also brainstorms plots to fend off unsuitable proposals for her sister. But through this all, she has to face her family’s distaste for the fact that she is dark and thus not beautiful, which is the harsh reality in some part of the Indian society.
As Asha waits for her father to call her, Reet and her mother to New York, they receive terrible news that shatters their lives. Their already bad life becomes worse, with the three of them drowned in gloom. Asha decides it is up to her to save her mother and sister from the harsh turn of events. It is during this period that she learns the significance of sacrifice and that it is only if you truly love someone will you able to make a tremendous one.
Will Asha’s life ever get back to the ‘happily ever after’ that she had often written in her Secret Keeper about?
(Shivani Singh, who has just appeared for her 10th grade exams, is an avid reader and a writer in the making.)