The Girl in the Garden

The Girl in the Garden

by Kamala Nair

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446572699
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 06/12/2012
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 680,605
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Kamala Nair was born in London and grew up in the United States. A graduate of Wellesley College, she studied literature at Oxford University and received an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin in 2005. She currently lives in New York City, where she has worked at ELLE DECOR.

What People are Saying About This

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

"The unexpected twists and dark secrets lurking make it difficult for readers to put this engrossing story down. A strong cast of well-developed characters will further capture their emotions. Fans of The Secret Garden (the author was inspired by this childhood classic) as well as lovers of family dramas and Indian fiction will find a new favorite in Nair." —Library Journal

"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

Customer Reviews

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The Girl in the Garden 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
ASMoen More than 1 year ago
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.
BooksAreTasty More than 1 year ago
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.
cubicleblindnessKM More than 1 year ago
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.
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
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)
gutdoc More than 1 year ago
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!
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Atmospheric, steamy, lush--first time author Kamala Nair's novel is also filled with a sense of foreboding. The summer Rakhee turns eleven, her mother (Amma) takes her from their home in Minnesota to southern India to meet her extended family there. From the beginning--even before the trip to India--Rakhee senses secrets are being kept. Everything seems to have a hidden story--the ancestral home, the hospital that carries the family name, Amma's dear friend Uncle Pram--and Rakhee's persistent curiosity is the tug that causes all the cover stories to unravel. Fragments of fairy tales lend tension--she finds a lush fenced garden hidden deep in the forest--what secrets might it hide?Nair's novel is filled with memorable characters, both sympathetic and hateful. We learn much about Indian culture and customs--fascinating details that add to the depth of the story. Her writing is flawless--descriptive and lyrical--a joy to read!A coming of age story in every sense, the summer in India marks the end of childhood for Rakhee as she heroically and fearlessly advances, uncovering the truth about Amma and her family. It grabs the reader in the first sentence, then sweeps us away to Rakhee's sultry and life-changing summer.
booktwirps on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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)
suetu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An exotic tale marred by novice writingThere are a million stories in the naked city, and a million writers trying to get them published. At times like this, I really have to wonder: Why this one? How was it that author Kamala Nair won the golden ticket? Because I just don¿t see it. The novel opens in the present day in the form of a letter from first person narrator Rakhee to her fiancée. ¿By the time you read this, I will be flying over the Atlantic on my way to India. You will have woken up alone and found the diamond ring I left on the bedside table and beneath it, this stack of papers you now hold.¿ Okay, already I find her unsympathetic because that ¿stack of papers¿ is in fact the 300-page manuscript that makes up the novel. Premeditate much, Rakhee? Well, never mind adult Rakhee because this is a coming of age tale about the summer that Rakhee turned 11. It was a pivotal season in her life and as she explains (in absentia) to her fiancée, until she comes to terms with her past, she can¿t move forward with the marriage. Rahkee is of Indian descent, born in America. She was raised among the blondes of Minnesota, so it¿s no wonder she felt like an outcast. She¿s a lonely, artistic girl, more close to her scientist father than her indifferent and depressive mother. During a time of heightened family tensions, Rahkee¿s mother decides it will be good for them to spend the summer in rural India with her family. There Rakhee meets aunts, uncles, cousins, and the grandmother she hasn¿t seen in years. At first, it¿s a happy time of finally belonging. But there are dark undercurrents at the family home. Why have the children been warned away from entering the jungle behind their home?Rakhee is not so suspicious or easily manipulated as her cousins, and before long she has discovered a mysterious cottage surrounded by a beautiful garden, all behind a tall, locked fence. And, she eventually discovers the deformed girl who is the cottage¿s sole resident¿ Are you fully appreciating the references to The Secret Garden yet? That is just one of the many themes in this dreary melodrama. Why dreary? I really didn¿t find this book well-written. I found the pace frequently plodding, the dialogue occasionally cringe-worthy (¿I¿ve been dreading this, but it has to be done. People will talk if I don¿t go and see them and act as if everything is normal. Stupid gossips.¿), the imagery heavy-handed (¿The entire garden had transformed into a crumbling shell of its former self.¿), the secrets and twists to be obvious and telegraphed, and the melodrama to be over the top. Actually, the over-the-topness did help pick up the pace of things as the novel approached its climax. I was grateful for that.I think this could have been a rich, exotic tale in a more experienced writer¿s hands, but alas, this is a debut I could have skipped.
Sararush on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Girl in the Garden is as far as I can tell is the first novel by Kamala Nair which is surprising because it's rendered with the restraint and grace that many novelists only develop later in their career. The plot begins with Rahkee on the verge of her engagement as she recollects a summer she spent in India with her mom and her Indian Relations. Eleven year old Rahkee spends the first part of the trip contrasting India and her hometown of Plainfield, Minnesota, bonding with her cousins, and fiercely missing her father. When her mother starts acting strangely, her amateur investigations lead her to a family secret that will have tremendous implications for everyone she loves.Rahkee is a smart and unbelievably mature young lady. Her actions not only defy reason but ensure great personal consequences that only the bravest of characters would make. She's almost too rational. The first of many illogical elements a reader must wrestle with before surrendering to the magic of Nair's tale. And The Girl in the Garden is most definitely a modern fairy tale. The novel will undoubtedly draw comparisons to The Secret Garden due to the similarities in tone and plot. It also nods to it's mythic roots by weaving the Indian epic of Rama and Sita from the Ramayana into its narrative. Though the book is touted as terrifying, I found it more melancholy. It incorporates the clash of many themes ie, the difficult relationship between Rakhee and her mother with the traditional familial dynamic of India, science with the supernatural, love with obsession, etc... For a short novel it covers a lot of material, no doubt due to the large page count of exposition which Nair slowly builds, and then unravels in pages. And so novel does manage to hold tension throughout the story and yield multiple surprises. The Girl in the Garden is a spell binding work which captures the imagination of it's audience. Recommended.
Ginerbia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was a privilege to read an advance copy of The Girl in the Garden and to meet the author, Kamala Nair, in person. Working in the Communications division of the library does have its perks. I met with Kamala in order to take some photos and to do some video interviews to help promote her debut novel which will be available on June 15th. She's going to be at Barnes & Noble - Apache Mall on Friday, June 17th and at the Rochester Public Library on Thursday, July 28th. Watch the library's YouTube channel for the series of interviews that will be posted throughout the month.The first chapter of The Girl in the Garden pulled me right in; a mystery was afoot and I needed to know what it was all about. Rakhee, the main character, has decided that she cannot get married until she settles some issues from her past. The rest of the book is the explanation to her fiance of why she needs to go back to India... Eleven-year-old Rakhee accompanies her mother to spend a summer in India with her mother's family. Throughout the summer Rakhee realizes that the family has a lot of secrets to unravel and mysteries to solve. When the summer ends, things don't work out the way Rakhee planned or hoped they would and she goes back to America, burying the secrets once again. These secrets are what she has to uncover once and for all before she feels she can, in good conscience, move on with her life.Kamala's descriptive writing style gives the reader a full sense of the colors, smells, and sounds of India; it makes me want to visit so I can experience it for myself. It was a good, plot-twisting read.
Beamis12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
3 1/2 but learned more about India's culture than I knew before and the cahracters were interesting as was the storyline. Young girl's view of a mysterious garden and family history, insights into her mother that she didn't have before going from America to India to meet her family. A little to Secret Garden and Kate Morton for my taste.
Krista23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
jo-jo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you have read any of my reviews in the past you must know by now that I absolutely love books that give me a taste of another culture...throw a young gal into the mix who is in the midst of life changes and I am hooked! We learn about Rakhee's life changing summer in India as she reflects upon that time before making a very important decision that will impact the rest of her life.As a young girl Rakhee is an only child living with her parents in Plainfield, Minnesota. Both of her parents moved to the U.S. from India at a very young age and seemed to have established a comfortable life for their young family. Amma (Rakhee's mother) immerses herself in creating the most beautiful garden in the area, while her father, Aba, spends most of his time at the scientific lab where he is employed. Amma has had her problems with depression in the past, but she seems to be falling deeper into that realm once again when envelopes start arriving in the mail that are addressed from India. After Amma receives a few of these envelopes she decides that she will take Rakhee to her family home in India for the summer.It is a new world and culture that Rakhee discovers in India and she embraces the family that she has never met before. Her mother's sisters and brother all live under one roof in a very large estate. She learns that her family is both respected and apparently well-off since her grandfather started a hospital in the area that specialized in ayurvedic treatments. Although her grandfather is no longer alive, family members have continued his work in the hospital.I really believe that we as women take so much for granted in this wonderful country that we live in. Rakhee is shown the some of these differences in the everyday life that is led in India. From women not having choices in arranged marriages to not being able to step into the holy temples, things are very different, and Rakhee finds herself yearning for her father and her life back in Minnesota.Rakhee does embrace her new cousins though, as they spend time together every day, they come to be the sisters that she never had. When her cousins must study in the afternoons Rakhee has spare time on her hands and decides to venture out into the forbidden woods to see what is so scary. What she finds isn't scary at all, but one of the most beautiful places she has ever seen. Little does she know that this beautiful place will change her life forever.I don't want to give away any more of this book but I can tell you that I really enjoyed it. With themes of family secrets, loyalty, and Indian culture, this is a great book to read for either personal leisure or as a book club selection. I don't hesitate in recommending this book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't understand what the scary part of the book is. Can someone please tell me in detail !
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NatalieTahoe More than 1 year ago
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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teacher47 More than 1 year ago
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.