Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Golden Son" by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, Served with Chai-Spiced "Golden Milk"

Today's TLC Book Tour stop has a review of The Golden Son, a beautifully-written novel by Shilpi Somaya Gowda. My book review is accompanied by a recipe for Chai-Spiced 'Golden Milk' that was inspired by my reading. It's my take on the popular turmeric-laced drink that is popping up everywhere on health and wellness sites. It also happens to be the beverage I want to sip while snuggling up with a engrossing and well-told story, so a perfect match for this book.

Publisher's Blurb:

The New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of Secret Daughter returns with an unforgettable story of family, responsibility, love, honor, tradition, and identity, in which two childhood friends—a young doctor and a newly married bride—must balance the expectations of their culture and their families with the desires of their own hearts.

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.

Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.

Tender and bittersweet, The Golden Son illuminates the ambivalence of people caught between past and present, tradition and modernity, duty and choice; the push and pull of living in two cultures, and the painful decisions we must make to find our true selves.

Hardcover: 408 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (January 26, 2016)

My Review:  

Having a fondness of books set in India and/or stories dealing with cultural clashes and norms of different cultures in America and having loved the author's first book The Secret Daughter, I was really looking forward to The Golden Son and it did not disappoint in any way. As with Secret Daughter, Gowda skillfully drew me into the story and firmly attached me to the main characters. Both Anil and Leena are strong at heart, but are not yet confident in that strength and both must go through challenges to find their place in the world, even more difficult due to their loyalty to family and to the awareness that every choice they make has a huge effect on those they love. Anil, the titular "golden son" of his family and village, is the eldest and the first in the family to leave home and better himself through school. There is much responsibility placed on him, especially when his father dies and he becomes the head of his family and the arbitrator of his village while in the midst of a grueling residency program thousands of miles away. His self-doubts, both from his childhood and being away from what he knows and in a completely different culture in Texas, weigh heavily. One of the quotes I marked in the book that struck me the most was Anil's: "Not only was it impossible to truly belong in America, but he didn't fit in here anymore either. He was a dweller of two lands, accepted by none." Because of the disastrous turn Leena's arranged marriage takes, she also finds herself pushed out of the comfort of her cultural expectations. If her marriage doesn't work, Leena brings shame upon her family and village and will likely be ostracized--so, although she is still in India, she in a sense doesn't belong or fit in anymore with the cultural norm. Even if you aren't tied to a strong culture or facing the obstacles of Anil and Leena, I think anyone who has ever moved to a different environment or away from their family and what is known, or not lived their lives to the expectations of others can relate to their stories.
I found myself caught up in the book and pulled along, wanting to see what would happen and hoping for the best for the characters and their families. Gowda does a wonderful job of painting a picture of traditional Indian culture--both the good and the ugly, especially in how women are often devalued and treated. There are some tough-to-read parts with some graphic violence and abuse, but there is a hopeful tone overall. I especially liked that the ending had some twists that differed from my expectations, but which fit the story and characters and left me satisfied. I really enjoyed The Golden Son and if you like smart fiction about love, family, friendship, tradition, and culture, I'm sure you will too. 


Author Notes: Shilpi Somaya Gowda was born and raised in Toronto to parents who migrated there from Mumbai. She holds an MBA from Stanford University and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1991, she spent a summer as a volunteer in an Indian orphanage. She has lived in New York, North Carolina, and Texas, and currently makes her home in California with her husband and children.
Find out more about Shilpi at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration: 

There is actually quite a bit of food inspiration to be found in The Golden Son. Anil's mother warns him about trying food (and especially staying away from meat and alcohol) in America but he quickly falls for things like Tex-Mex, Pad Thai, Chinese food, ice cream, bean and cheese burritos and enchiladas, salsa, vegetable lasagna, pizza, sushi, grilled cheese, margaritas and beer. From India there are plenty of mentions of food and drink such as dals, curries, kulfi, chapatis, paranthas, chutney, sweet paan, laddoo, fresh mangoes (and mango pickle and lassi), chai, and other local dishes.  

I actually had my book-inspired recipe figured out almost as soon I set down to read the book with a cup of golden milk in my hand one night--liking the play of the title of the book with the drink's title. Lately I have been on an almost nightly ritual of golden milk, drawn to the anti-inflammatory properties of the turmeric for my asthma and allergy issues, as well as the delicious taste. 

It only solidified my decision to read how Anil's mother sends him off to America with a tin of turmeric, telling him, "The turmeric will keep you well, if you take it every day. Cough, cold, stomach problems, headaches, joint pain--turmeric cures all of it." Unfortunately, the tin spilled, ruining half of his clothes with turmeric stains. (That would totally happen to me!)  

Later in the book, Anil returns to Texas after a visit back home with a prescription bottle filled with chai masala powder his mother sent back with him, bringing comfort and memories. "On this visit, he'd followed her into the kitchen, watching how she crushed a nub of gingerroot and tore fresh mint leaves into the simmering milky liquid, sometimes adding lemongrass or cloves." So, the turmeric and chai spices became my inspiration to change up my golden milk. 

I make a simple vegan version of "golden milk" at night--usually turmeric spice powder, plenty of cinnamon, coconut milk, and lots of honey, and sometimes ginger or other spices. For this Chai-Spiced Golden Milk, I used fresh turmeric root and worked in some of my favorite chai spices, as well as fresh mint and ginger as Anil's mother did. Since I drink my golden milk before bed, I didn't add tea, but you could certainly steep a chai teabag in the coconut milk and turmeric mixture for an easy variation.

Chai-Spiced Golden Milk
From Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 1-2)

2 cups lite coconut milk (or milk of choice)
*1 1/2 Tbsp fresh turmeric, peeled and grated, or 1-2 tsp ground turmeric
fresh ginger, 2-3 peeled and thinly sliced pieces
1 cinnamon stick + 1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cloves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds 
3 cardamom pods, crushed slightly
3-4 black peppercorns 
2-3 sprigs of fresh mint
1 Tbsp honey--or to taste

Heat the coconut milk, spices, ginger and mint in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes--being careful not to over boil or scorch the milk. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. 

Carefully (turmeric is a bright yellow stain waiting to happen on everything it comes in contact with!) strain the golden milk to remove the sediment and fresh ingredients. Stir in honey to taste. Serve warm.  

*Note: If you have not learned to love turmeric or have not used it much before, you may want to start with a smaller amount like 1 Tbsp. 

Notes/Results: A little more effort than my normal nightly golden milk but well worth it. I loved the addition of more spices and the fresh mint--so many layers of flavor. It also takes some of the bitter edge that turmeric can have. The fresh turmeric (I buy it local at farmers markets or Whole Foods here) has a brighter flavor than the dried and although it is a danger to me staining every item in my kitchen--including myself, I find the flavor far superior. If you find the turmeric too bitter, you can reduce the amount as noted above, but I find honey and cinnamon make the flavor personally enjoyable. A big mug of golden milk is a perfect after dinner and before bed beverage--it's become one of my favorite ways to end the day and relax with a book or catching up with television. 

I am linking this book review and food pairing up at the Beth Fish Reads: Weekend Cooking Event, an event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

Note: A review copy of "The Golden Son" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. I have a similar. bottle of turmeric 😀 This is an interesting story about a very different culture than ours and sounds like an educational read. Great soup too!

  2. Thanks Tina! It's definitely a book that you learn about a different culture while enjoying an absorbing story.

  3. I love turmeric and that yellow is soooo pretty. I've been thinking of reading this book -- now I think I'll have to.

  4. Turmeric is just so good for you too. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  5. Food in literature is one of my favorite subjects. I like the way you explored the food from this book.

    best.... mae

  6. I often have turmeric in a lassi with kefir, salt and cumin, but will definitely try the golden milk; as well as that great book recommendation.

  7. I have tumeric in my pantry but have had no idea how to use it until now!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  8. This sounds a lot healthier than my hot chocolate drink! I love the sound of The Golden Son, too. I read a lot of India-themed books, and am adding this to my TBR list right now!

  9. This book is in my to-read pile and I'm glad to hear you liked it. Her book The Secret Daughter was also excellent! I've never had turmeric...guess I should try it!


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