I’m delighted to host an interview with Anita Kushwaha, debuting this year with the fantastic Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters from HarperCollins. This breathtaking book is already receiving rave reviews, and I’m so happy to have Anita on the blog before she becomes too famous to talk to the likes of me. 😀
For readers of Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s “Secret Daughter” and Nancy Richler’s “The Imposter Bride”, a breathtaking novel from Anita Kushwaha about the ties that bind mothers and daughters together and the secrets that tear them apart
Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—when the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly to Asha, the young woman on the cusp of adulthood who links them together.
On the day after her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness shortly before then, leaving Asha with only a letter.
Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.
Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.
Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life.
Three mothers, bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all. Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.
Anita, where did the idea for Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters come from?
I knew I would write a book having to do with arranged marriage someday because growing in a small town, it was one of the characteristics that distinguished the origins of my family from that of those around me, and was often misunderstood, which at times became a source of shame for me and made me feel like our family was somehow less authentic than those around us. In writing the book, I wanted to explore the idea that all relationships, regardless of their origins, are arrangements of one sort or another, with their own particular advantages and disadvantages, freedoms and constraints.
The other themes that I wanted to explore in the book are those that seem to make their way into my writing—immigrant experiences, intergenerational conflict, the consequences of silence, identity, belonging, and mental health examined through a cultural lens.
I also knew I’d write a tragic love story someday, and wanted to give a nod to my love of Victorian novels, especially the works of the Brontes, hence the influence of Jane Eyre in the book, which also speaks to another subtle theme, that is, the ability of fiction to connect people through time.
Proof: Jane Eyre, one of my favourite books, connects me and you across the Atlantic Ocean and across different genres. 🙂
Which of your characters do you think is most like you, and which is most different?
This mother-daughter story is told in two alternating timelines, that of Asha and Mala. The story begins with the revelation that Asha’s parents have kept the truth about her adoption a secret for her entire life. But why? As Asha is thrust on a journey of self-discovery, the reader is introduced to Mala, and the choices and secrets that end up shaping both their lives. I’m definitely more like Mala—she’s quiet, introspective, a people pleaser. Asha is more outspoken and rebellious. Asha has the inner fire and self-belief that I wish I had more of, and Mala too.
Who would you most like to be friends with in real life – Veena, Mala, Nandini, or Asha?
I would love to be friends with Mala. We both love research, reading, and our families. I would love to be the friend who sits with her in a dimly lit grad pub and helps her see that there’s more to her life than being a vessel for other people’s dreams and expectations. She has a life that’s her own, and it’s worth fighting for.
What kind of books do you like to read? Who are your auto-buy authors?
I love reading across genres, and I’m certainly going to get the opportunity to do with all the great #2020debuts coming out this year! Some books I’ve read within the past few years that I thought were brilliant are: All The Light We Cannot See, A Little Life, The Nightingale, Swing Time, Washington Black, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Power, Dual Citizens, Motherhood. Auto-buy authors for me would be Zadie Smith, Jhumpa Lahiri, Margaret Atwood, Esi Edugyan, Elena Ferrante—I always want to know what these writers are thinking about and have to say.
You’re going to be stranded on a desert island. Sorry about that. But you can take three frivolous items and one book: what are you taking? And no, you can’t take a how-to on raft construction or a book of coconut recipes. This is purely for entertainment.
A desert island vacation! Sounds like just what I need. Okay, purely for entertainment’s sake, I would bring a paddle board (my new summertime obsession), chocolate hazelnut gelato (I don’t know if food counts? But I crave this like crazy as soon as it’s warm out), and a hammock for reading and napping. The book: Wuthering Heights.
Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters is out on 28 January. WOO! What’s next for Anita Kushwaha fans? Are you writing something at the moment?
Ah! I can’t believe SLOMAD is out so soon. Jan 28th in Canada, and Feb 18th in the UK and US. I had a feeling life was going to get hectic and my concentration was going to be very poor around this time—which it is!—so I gave myself the goal of finishing a working draft of my current WIP before the holidays. The manuscript is currently with my agent for review, gulp. It’s a sisterhood story more bitter than sweet, inspired by The Blind Assassin and the Neapolitan Novels. Lots of complex family dynamics and secrets and people who are really bad at interpersonal communication. What can I say, I love family drama!
That sounds just as intriguing as SLOMAD; I personally love stories about female relationships!
Find out more about Anita:
You can buy SLOMAD at all the usual places online as well as in your local bookstore (and if they don’t have it on the shelves, order it!):
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2YdLcSc
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2P2ZiS8
Amazon Can: https://amzn.to/2OHMx0m
Anita Kushwaha grew up in Aylmer, Quebec. Her road to publication included a fulfilling career in academia, where she studied human geography at Carleton University and earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. She is also a graduate of the Humber School for Writers creative writing program, a member of the Canadian Authors Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the recipient of a Literary Creations grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Her novel SIDE BY SIDE won an Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Silver Medal for Multicultural Fiction in 2019. She is also the author of a novella, THE ESCAPE ARTIST. Her forthcoming Women’s Fiction debut SECRET LIVES OF MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS will be released in Canada on January 28, 2020 by Harper Avenue and on February 18, 2020 in the US, UK, AUS and NZ by HarperCollins Publishers. She lives in Ottawa.