Book summary: The House of Hidden Mothers

2015 BY MEERA SYAL

LIFE HASN’T ALWAYS BEEN EASY for Shyama, a British Indian woman in her mid-forties whose husband abandoned her when their daughter was still young, but she has finally found happiness with Toby, a man ten years her junior. She and Toby want to have a child together, but her doctor tells her that her womb has become inhospitable. (“An inhospitable womb! There, she had been looking for a title for her autobiography.”) So Shyama and Toby decide to take advantage of the Indian surrogacy boom. Meanwhile, four thousand miles away in rural India, a young woman named Mala, who’s married to an abusive older man, learns from her newly wealthy neighbor about the riches to be acquired by acting as a surrogate for an international couple, and she thinks she has found her ticket out of poverty. As Shyama’s and Mala’s lives begin their journey toward each other, the two women soon discover that a simple arrangement may be far more complicated than it once seemed.

In The House of Hidden Mothers, the British actress and playwright Meera Syal has penned a confrontational and ultimately heartbreaking cautionary tale about the Indian surrogacy industry. Beneath the fast-paced narrative, the warm wit, and the characters whose emotional journeys grip you from the very first page run piercing insights on youth and age, wealth and poverty, love, sex, joy, and power. Spanning the distance from London to New Delhi, this ambitious and beautifully written novel immerses you in a devastating story of friendship, family, and the lengths we will go in order to have a perfect life.

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