Title: The Girl in the Garden
Author: Kamala Nair
Magical, heartbreaking, ethereal are just some of the words that come to my mind when I think of Kamala Nair’s, The Girl in the Garden. I can’t give enough praise for this beautifully written novel. I would put Kamala’s story telling abilities on the same level as Khaled Hosseini and Amy Tan. The Girl in the Garden has such a strong foundation; it is hard to believe this is Kamala’s debut novel. The Girl in the Garden is a story of a mother, a daughter, a family, a generation and beyond. The story is narrated by Rakhee. The narration is an explanation to Rakhee’s fiancée as to why she (Rakhee) has fled to India, unannounced. Rakhee has something in her past that she must come to terms with. This “something” has to do with a summer she spent in India with her mother Amma, when Rakhee was just out of the 5th grade. Rakhee escorts her mother back to her mother’s family who live in a very small rural village in India. Rakhee, used to being the minority in her suburban Minnesota town, quickly falls into place with her cousins and the family she has never met. For the first time she feels part of something and has no shame or embarrassment for her looks or culture. Now if she can only solve the mystery of her Mother’s family and her Mother’s past. With the help of her little cousin, Krishna, and the whole summer before her, she might just be able to figure the family secrets out.
I was immediately drawn to The Girl in the Garden, based on the cover and title alone. I love books that deal with customs and cultures of those from different countries. The wonderful thing about The Girl in the Garden is how the author weaves the Hindu myths into the story in such a way that brings the myths to life. There are many life lessons to be learned in The Girl in the Garden. Appearances, myth, truth and consequences are all put to the test. What the children of this small town in India are told by their parents is to be believed and not questioned. Rakhee’s cousins have accepted this and have never argued. It is not until Rakhee arrives and challenges everything that she is told, that the mysteries, lies and deception of her family are brought into the open. This is a breathtaking novel. I was truly mesmerized by the utter beauty of Kamala Nair’s writing. I was sad to have this story come to an end, but I do have to say that at the same time, I felt somewhat enlightened and uplifted having read this book. You would be crazy to pass this book up. I will be a fan of Kamala Nair’s always and I wish her success in the future; hoping that success means many more books by her.
*I received a copy of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel.*