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Thoughts on “The Girl in the Garden” by Kamala Nair

I read The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair on my Sony Reader, thanks to NetGalley. It’s out tomorrow, June 15, from Grand Central Publishing.

About the Book:

Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair (cover)Rakhee Singh is a young woman when, as The Girl in the Garden opens, she leaves her fiancé and engagement ring behind and sets off to mend her past. Left with the ring is a story: a summer from Rakhee’s childhood she’s kept hidden for years. It is this tale which unfurls in Nair’s debut novel.

As a child, Rakhee is happy enough living in Plainfield, Minnesota, with her parents and her dog, Merlin. But then her mother, Amma, begins receiving strange-looking letters all the way from her village in India, and Rakhee’s parents don’t seem so happy together anymore. When Amma announces she and Rakhee will spend the summer in Malanad, India, while Rakhee’s father, Aba, stays in Plainfield, Rakhee begins to worry.

In India there are adventures to have and cousins to play with, but there are also secrets and mysteries. The deeper Rakhee digs, the stranger the story becomes, until at last, she lays bare a tangled web kept hidden by those close to her for so long.

My Thoughts:

The Girl in the Garden is the sort of book that sucks you into its world. It wraps you up and entices you with its mystery, in much the same way India does to Rakhee. To read a chapter is to spend some time in distant place, absorbed in the tale that Rakhee unravels. It is a book for those who like to look up from their reading, gaze around, and think, Where am I?

Part of what I really enjoyed about The Girl in the Garden is that many of Rakhee’s initial impressions of India mirror my own. The words she learns are words I’ve learned; the food she’s served is food I, too, have enjoyed. But aside from that, Rakhee is an excellent narrator, trying to be good but also proud, struggling to find her path. I couldn’t help but take her side as she faced dilemmas and dug for the truth.

The Girl in the Garden has the feel of a fairytale, of something not quite real. For that reason, I struggled to believe it. The setting and characters are very real and imaginable, certainly. The story, though, seems just a tad too far-reaching to be possible. Yet Nair creates such a heavily entrancing atmosphere that at times I lost sight of my one criticism. For me, The Girl in the Garden worked the way Rapunzel or Sleeping Beauty does: lovely and enchanting and just beyond reality’s grasp. But realistic or not quite, the story of family and forgiveness that surrounds Rakhee’s summer in India and beyond is very satisfying.

Those are my thoughts. Check out The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair on GoodReads or LibraryThing, or read other bloggers’ reviews:

Did I miss your review? Please let me know!

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  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    This story reminds me a little of The Language of Baklava, which I read several months ago. It sounds like although it was transporting, that it was also a little gauzy and hard to hold within the sphere of belief, so I am not sure what I would make of it. I am thinking about doing some further research on it though, as the premise entices me. Great review, Erin.

    • Erin

      I have heard of The Language of Baklava — a former coworker used to recommend it often. That one is supposed to be a memoir, though, right? Always tough when those end up “hard to hold within the sphere of belief.”

  • http://www.fizzythoughts.com softdrink

    I love it when a book can transport me to another place.

  • http://Www.lifewithbooks.com Jenners

    Ooohhh…sounds good. I love how you describe it as a book you look up from and say “where am I?”

    • Erin

      Me, too!

  • http://www.readingonarainyday.com Aths

    I do have this one to read next month and I’m kind of pensive now. I’m not sure how well the “fairytale” elements will work for me – but I’ll still give it a try.

    • Erin

      It was a pretty quick read, if nothing else! I hope you end up enjoying it. I’ll look forward to your thoughts.

  • http://joyfullyretired.com Margot

    I also love books that suck me in. I enjoyed reading your review. I’ve agreed to read this book for a book tour the end of July. I haven’t started the book yet but I’m looking forward to it.

    • Erin

      Ooh, I hope you like it! I’ll look forward to your review.

  • http://sophisticateddorkiness.com Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    I almost accepted this book for review, but ended up passing it up. Now I wish I hadn’t — this sounds like just the kind of book I’ve been craving recently.

    • Erin

      I hate it when you pass something up and then start seeing reviews that make it sound good! Luckily, it’s out now, so if you really need a book like it, it’ll be easy to track down :-)

  • http://www.knittingandsundries.com Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

    What a great review! I have a “thing” for books centered in or around or about India, so this one is going on my to-buy list!

    • Erin

      Thanks, Julie. I definitely think you’ll enjoy this one, then. That’s a “thing” we share! You’ll have to let me know if you come across any India-centered must-reads!

  • http://booksnyc.blogspot.com Colleen

    I loved this book too – Rakhee was a great narrator and her observations struck me as perfectly appropriate for her age. I was completed immersed in the book!

    • Erin

      Yes, that’s another great point! Rakhee was age-appropriate without being too childish for an adult reader to relate to.

  • http://www.readinasinglesitting.com Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting

    This sounds great, but I know what you mean about books that struggle for believability. I found the same thing with Song of the Silk Road by Mingmei Yip and Lovesong by Alex Miller. Both strong reads (and offering fascinating insight into other cultures) but both somehow lacking realism.

    • Erin

      It seems to me it’s only a problem when a book is trying to be realistic. I think sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference…more just that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t! Always a little disappointing when you try to believe a book and you just can’t seem to.