Asha, just like the meaning of her name, lives in hope. A hope for her future, a realisation of her dream of being the first bengali Psychologist in India, and above all she is entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of her mom and sister in her father's absence.
Set in the 1970's the secret keeper records the life of Asha. The Secret Keeper (nick named SK) is her personal diary- complete with a lock and key- her outlet where she pours her thoughts, feelings, dreams and hopes- just like our blogs.
Asha's father loses his job. He decides to try his luck in the land of hopes- USA leaving his family behindAsha and Reet along with their mother move from Delhi to Calcutta to bide their time in their uncle's household until their father sends for them.
With great ease, Mitali Perkins tells the story of their settling down with the household. Unsaid responsibilities are taken, friendships are formed, and the two girls become an integral part of the household.
An unexpected tragedy forces them to take tough decisions and optimise resources in the face of this sudden crunch.
The book is a young adult fiction but can be appreciated by others too. The voice definitely is young adult centric- the actions and decisions of the protagonists are to be viewed through the lens of teenagers on the verge of adulthood rather than through an adult's lens. And that too, young adults who lived in the 70's. When feminism was not so much there in India and tradition and culture was still having a strong hold in the mindset despite some people breaking free of the confines when they were not in their childhood homes/ with their ancestral family.
Which is why I had to struggle with the turn of events at one point of time. Asha's hard decision which was her best decision in her words might not have been so if the book was set in current time.
The book left me very sad. It is realistic. It could happen to anyone but somehow I felt very emotionally drained after reading the book.
It had good moments, funny lines but mostly it was full of moments comprising the struggle of survival. Struggle to maintain the family honour and uphold dignity inspite of the situation. From the word go there is a sense of urgency and tension.
So much so that the few times the family went for a shopping round- I found myself asking- why are they wasting money!
I loved the lines- Certain stories could come back to life on the second, third, or even tenth reading if you gave them time until the next encounter.