Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
With their father unable to find a job in Delhi, Asha, her older sister Reet, and their mother must go live with relatives in Calcutta while her father travels to New York in search of new opportunities. He hopefully promises that reunion is not far off.
Life with the extended family in Calcutta is stifling, governed by traditions that independent, feisty Asha finds especially difficult to live with – even in the mid-1970s, she can’t go to school, she can’t go outside, she can’t speak freely, she is cut off from everything that makes her happy. Her only outlet is to escape to the roof to write in her diary, her Secret Keeper.
Slowly, Asha’s silent older male cousin opens up and they share their love of tennis and cricket. She finds a friendship growing with the boy next door, deemed ‘odd’ by the neighbors. She watches over gorgeous Reet who must deal with constant unwanted attention, as the local boys literally line up outside the gates to catch a mere glimpse of her. The separation from her father is especially difficult for her mother, who turns more silently detached as the months pass far too slowly. When tragic word about Ash’s father arrives, Ash must take charge and somehow keep good her promise that she will always take care of her mother and sister.
In spite of all the restrictions designed to keep women in virtual shackles, Mitali Perkins offers another inspiring story of ingenious girl power that prevails without breaking too many rules.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult