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:
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.
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.
Did I miss your review? Please let me know!