The Girl in the Garden

( 21 )

Overview

The redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.

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The Girl in the Garden

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Overview

The redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.

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  • The Girl in the Garden
    The Girl in the Garden  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nair's accomplished debut is a familial drama spanning multiple decades. Rakhee Singh has spent years avoiding memories of the transformative summer when she turned 11, but her betrothal forces her to realize she needs to acknowledge her past before she can move forward. "Keeping secrets had become second nature, an inheritance passed down from mother to daughter like an heirloom." As a young child in Minnesota, Rakhee senses her mother's unhappiness, and this feeling intensifies after a batch of mysterious letters arrives from India. Her mother's moods become unpredictable, culminating in the decision to visit her family in rural Kerala with Rakhee, leaving her husband behind. In India, Rakhee longs to explore the jungle surrounding the family's home, but is warned about a superstition prohibiting children from entering it. Rakhee disobeys and what she discovers there is a tangled web of deceit that will haunt her for years. Nair creates a satisfying coming-of-age tale with smooth prose and a lustrous backdrop. (June)
Library Journal
On the eve of her marriage, Rakhee Singh recalls being taken to her mother's ancestral home in India as a ten-year-old and discovering that family secrets lay buried in the lush jungle behind the house. Pitched as a cross between Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic The Secret Garden and Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, this debut could do well with reading groups. Watch.
From the Publisher
"A daring fairy tale of a story, Nair's first novel audaciously tackles issues ranging from puberty to friendship to abuse, providing plenty of adventure as well." —Booklist

"Lush and mysterious, The Girl in the Garden casts its spell from the first page. Kamala Nair weaves an intricate tale of family bonds, buried secrets, and the pain that comes when we must leave the innocence of childhood behind. This is a deeply satisfying novel." —Kelly O'Conner McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

"Kamala Nair has crafted an evocative, passionate, tragic novel about love, loss and the terrible cost of family secrets. An impressive debut." —Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446572682
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 6/15/2011
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 966,169
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Kamala Nair
Born in London, Kamala Nair grew up in the United States. A graduate of Wellesley College, she won the Academy of American Poets Prize, the Jacqueline Award for Prose, the Florence Annette Wing Memorial Prize for Lyric Poetry, and the Virginia Wainwright Sonnet Prize. Kamala received an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin in 2005. She currently lives in New York where she works for ELLE Decor magazine.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 21 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 21 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Won't let you go - Gripping, gorgeous, a friend for life

    This is one of those rare novels that once begun is impossible to turn away from, so be forewarned and prepared to read it in one sitting. Though this is only to feel the loneliness of missing a beloved friend, and to want to begin all over again. Unlike many big stories that try the reader's patience with unnecessary details, Nair's novel efficiently contains a multi-generational family saga, loves, deaths, secrets, ruin, and rebirth, and so we feel the thrill (and terror) of the heroine's explorations in the new world of Southern India.

    Myth and a pervasive sense of the magic of a ruined ancestral home, its gardens and its stories, combine as Rakhee discovers her own strength of character, makes lifelong friendships, and confronts her mother's devastating secret history, only to learn, in the end, that the real test of growing up isn't merely the ability to judge, but to understand, to forgive, and finally, painfully, to love the very parents who aren't perfect, but as human and flawed as oneself. This is a novel that will stay with a reader forever, for the rich details of its world and family, and because of how, as with all great literature, it helps one to see one's own choices through the choices of its characters. This novel will be a friend, in the best sense of being both entertaining and edifying, for life.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2011

    Try and put it down. I dare you.

    I started The Girl in the Garden on a transatlantic flight. I had to change planes in London and I was irritated at being interrupted in the middle of the story, just as some of the intriguing questions and mysteries of The Girl in the Garden were making themselves known. I loved the voice of young Rakhee, an innocent, cloistered girl who was exposed to a brand new world as a young woman and discovers the secrets of her family's past that will change her life forever. I loved the world Kamala Nair weaved, this Wonderland, where I, like Rakhee, was spirited away during the hours that I devoured this story. It was such a difficult story to read, because I knew I was closer to the end with each page that I turned. The descriptions depicted, the stresses of a young child learning the dark secrets of her family that have been hidden from her, these were all so magical, yet so very tangibly created. The Girl in the Garden is perfect for that long flight, that incessantly rainy afternoon or simply when you want to get lost in a beautifully written book that will spirit you away. Turn your phone off and disable your doorbell, because nothing can tear you away from The Girl in the Garden.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 4, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    A very endearing story of a girl telling the story of her summer in India. Her summer was full of events that changed her way of thinking about her life, love and family. She spends the summer of her 11th birthday with her mother's family in India. And slowly events unravel, stories evolve and the characters develop. The majority of this bitter-sweet story takes place at the family home. They do have some travels outside the rural Indian house, but the real evolutions happen right in the home. We see loss of life, love and childhood. The gaining of understanding, love and family.
    This was a story that I would like to read again. The evolution of the story and events unravelling was a perfect pace. It kept me very engaged and I was saddened when it was over. Beautiful story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Engrossing

    Rakhee Singh leaves a letter for her fiancee along with her engagement ring before heading off to India. The letter explains that she has been keeping secrets from him, and that she must return to India to resolve some things that happened there when she was eleven. That summer, while traveling with her mother, Rakhee is introduced to a whole new world which is much different than the life she leads in Minnesota. When she arrives in India with her mother there are a plethora of family secrets that Rakhee plans to solve. Who wrote the letters that drove her mother to make the decision to return to India? Is there really a child-eating monster hiding in the jungle behind the home of her ancestors? What she discovers will shape the person she becomes and will force her to return to her family years later to put this baggage to rest before she can marry the man she loves.

    This debut novel from author Kamala Nair is beautifully written. The characters are alive and the story, though slow at times, is well-crafted. The mystery of the "monster" in the garden and the secrets Rakhee's family are trying to hide are interesting, though I did feel the resolve was a little flat. This novel is still worth a read. Nair has an exquisite voice and her descriptions are flawless. It's a quick read, and definitely worth the time.

    (Advanced review copy courtesy of NetGalley)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Very enjoyable!

    A family mystery in an exotic setting. Trite but true: a real page turner! I am reluctant to say more since i don't want to divulge anything about the mystery. You will enjoy reading this!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended

    It is always a pleasant surprise to settle down with a book that you think could be a good story, and to be rewarded as a reader for the very faith that you presented it with.

    While The Girl in the Garden begins with Rakhee immediately traveling for the second time in her life to India from America, leaving behind the ring her future husband gave her, the rest of the book is a flashback to one summer when Rakhee was only eleven-years-old. It was the very first time she had ever visited India with her mother, which was also the first time she met her extended family. It is a summer of secrets and betrayal. Families do come with burdens and unspoken truths, but the ones Rakhee learns in that one summer are more than she could ever have dreamed of. Or feared. But it is something that she must resolve before she can get married.

    Rakhee is eleven who has lived her whole life in Minnesota. While her parents love her and provide a good home, Rakhee doesn't "fit" with her classmates and is never included in anything. She may have her mother and her father, and a devoted dog named Merlin, but she doesn't have any friends.

    Her mother, a beautiful and sad woman, receives a curious letter in the mail, stamped with overseas postage. The contents of the letter aren't shared with Rakhee, but she is forced to fly to India with her mother for the summer. Once arriving in humid and hectic India, Rakhee again finds herself uncomfortable - she doesn't fit here either, at least at first. Settling into the routines of life in a foreign land, Rakhee's cousins are there to help her along, and provide her the very thing she's been craving - friendship.

    But this is so much more than simply a story about family - there is a secret behind the house in which her mother grew up. A secret of evil that her cousins have always been warned about. Children tend to be curious and defy the orders of their parents, but Rakhee's cousins have never done so - they've been told they shouldn't go over the wall that separates their house from this evil, and so they haven't. But with bravado, innocence, or by accident, Rakhee finds herself over the wall and curiously walking through the woods. What she finds there becomes magical, or real, but ultimately becomes the summer that seals all of their fates and reveals the truth behind the secrets that her mother's family have always kept.

    At once beautiful and strong, Kamala Nair delivers a story in which the very beauty of it is layered in its web of characters, culture, and secrets amidst the oppressive heat of India. There is almost a lyrical sound to the words on the page, and many times I found myself reading aloud, to see if I could capture the music. I love it when a book makes me do that. I felt the humidity of India, and especially young Rakhee's confusion as the lies of her family swirled around her, and I also could easily feel the injustice and frustration of being young and always being told that you're just not old enough to know the truth. Such a helpless feeling. But will finding the answer to a years kept secret ever make you feel better?

    There is nothing but surprise when each secret is revealed. I held my breath as it unfolded.

    I look forward to more from Kamala Nair. Fans of Lisa See, who enjoy cultural ties in fiction, will enjoy this book. Throw in the mystery behind it all, and you've also got a good one for your book club.

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  • Posted August 27, 2011

    Interesting

    Thus book was slow at the beginning, but eventually picked up.The author did a good job tying the various details together at the end. The book turned out to be good, not great and I would not recommend it to the readers I know.

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  • Posted July 14, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Gorgeously written page-turner

    I started this book just before bed, intending to only read for about 20 minutes - instead I stayed up all night reading because I could not wait until the next day to find out what happened. It is dark, intriguing, adventurous and relatable to all of us who have experienced that transition between childhood and adulthood in which it comes as a bit of a shock that your parents and extended family have pasts. I don't read fiction unless it is a great story that keeps me interested. This definitely did that! A perfect beach/summertime read.

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