The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
Fiction, Published June 15, 2011
ARC received from netGalley.com
Read June 2011, 320 pp.
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.
I truly could not put this book down and when I did, I was thinking about the story and couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. The story is driven by the main character, Rakhee, as she is on her way back to southern India. She has left her fiancee in bed with her engagement ring on top of a letter. This book is her letter to him explaining why she must return to India and tell him about her secret past before she will marry him. Rakhee soon goes back in time to the summer she turned eleven and her mother took her away from her boring, comfortable life in Plainfield, Minnesota to her mother’s home in southern India.
Even though Rakhee is Indian, India is a foreign and mysterious world to her, much like it is to most of us as the reader. She soon finds the sisters she never had in her cousins Krishna and Meenu. It is not long when the dark family secrets begin to start spiraling out of control and Rakhee finds herself right in the middle of things. It was only one summer, but what happened forever turned Rakhee’s Plainfield life upside down.
There are so many things to love about this story – the descriptiveness really makes you feel like you have taken the trip alongside Rahkee to India. She brings to life all of Rakhee’s family members, the rural town and temples, as well as the family home, Ashoka, and what secretly lives in the surrounding forest.
I sneaked a peak at the hardcover on Amazon and I am SO SO SO happy to see that there is a genealogy chart included in the front of the book. It is easy to get all the aunts and uncles confused with their similar names. I will definitely be picking up my own copy!
From the author – where she got the idea!
Check out the Book Trailer & Hear the author read from the book!
Quotes: (quoted from ARC, will double check against hard copy when I get one!)
Unbreakable, O Lord, is the love that binds me to You:
Like a diamond, it breaks the hammer that strikes it.
My heart goes to You as the polish goes into the gold.
As the lotus lives in its water, I live in You.
Like the bird that gazes all night at the passing moon,
I have lost myself dwelling in You.
O my Beloved – Return.
-Mirabai translated by Jane Hirshfield
There was something unworldly about Amma that we both sensed; it was as if she was not a flesh-and-blood woman but a dream conjured into existence by Aba’s and my love.
I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t. I was too old to believe in witches and monsters. But still, when I looked over my shoulder as we went back toward the front of the house, I remembered the light I had seen through the trees the night before, and felt a chill, like a strand of cold silk, rustle up and down your spine.
Separating the chaos of snarled vegetation was a narrow pathway, like a neat surgical incision. On either side of the path were explosions of cobwebbed greenery that seemed to be sweating in the humidity. The air had the sharp smell of grass, moist soil, and flowers. I followed the dirt path, using my hands to brush away low, sweeping branches that stretched out protectively before me.
I was just about to give up and turn back when something stopped me. A glass-winged dragonfly hovered just in front of my nose, then glided ahead, buoyed by a soft breeze. A silver thread was wrapped around the tip of the dragonfly’s tail, and from the end of the string fluttered the tiniest, most perfectly formed red rose I had ever seen. The strange dragonfly seemed to want me to follow it, so I did.
I waited for something drastic to happen when my skin made contact with the stone, but when neither I nor the wall burst into flames or evaporated into thin air, I continued dragging my hand along the wall, emboldened, until my palm felt the roughness of vines give way to a smooth, hard wood. A door.
The most striking feature of the cottage was the sheer quantity of books. Floor-to-ceiling shelves lined nearly half the curved wall, and they overflowed with books. Books sat stacked in neat piles on the floor near the bed, on the coffee table, on the kitchen counter. The other half of the wall was taken up by windows – great, wide windows curtained in a gossamer material that let in swatches of warm morning light.
Thanks to netGalley and Hachette Book Group for providing me with this galley!