Title: The Girl in the Garden
Author: Kamala Nair
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“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.”
Thoughts: The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair is another fascinating look into the Indian culture. With its hidden secrets, dark pasts,and fanciful setting, the story has all the trappings of a fairy tale. The lines between reality and fantasy blur slightly as Ms. Nair weaves her story of family and love through the mystical setting of India.
As its main character, Rahkee is both strong, independent, surprisingly fragile and utterly sympathetic. Her fragility is surprising, as is her sympathetic nature because that is not how she is portrayed as the story opens. Rather, she is the heartless fiancee of an unknown man who runs away in the dark of night in order to find closure with her past. This supposed heartlessness gradually becomes pain and anguish as the reader gets to know Rahkee and how her summer in India frames the beginning of the novel.
Like all good fairy tale heroines, Rahkee must do battle with her family’s tormentors and break down the walls, both figurative and literal, that prevent her entire family from experiencing true happiness. She does this with a fierceness that contradicts her initial indecision and flight, especially as she maintains her child-like innocence and sense of wonder through the retelling of the story. As Rahkee begins to fight for answers and the truth while standing up to generational, cultural, and physical barriers, she becomes the heroine and knight in shining armor all in one.
The Girl in the Garden gets some of its more fanciful elements from the Indian backdrop. The peacock roaming the garden, Ayurvedic practices healing terminally ill patients, the colorful saris, the bounteous food, the lush forests, the rules and requirements of Indian society – these all describe a world completely foreign to most Western readers. The unfamiliarity of these elements blurs the edges between fantasy and reality and enhances the fairy tale feel.
For all of its breathtaking descriptions, The Girl in the Garden is ultimately the story of the power of love and its redemptive as well as its destructive powers over entire generations. Utterly absorbing, the reader is drawn into the story from the opening lines, while the vibrant setting and well-structured narration fully immerses the reader into this spellbinding story.
Thank you to NetGalley for my e-galley!