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The Girl in the Garden Hardcover – June 15, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; First Edition edition (June 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446572683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446572682
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,169,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Amazon.com Exclusive Essay from Kamala Nair
Kamala Nair

The idea for The Girl in the Garden grew out of a single image I saw in a dream. It happened one night during a trip to Kerala, India, in the winter of 2004.

We were staying in the rambling farmhouse where my father grew up, a place I had often visited as a child. Growing up, The Secret Garden was one of my favorite novels, and whenever I came here, I felt like Mary at Misselthwaite Manor, stepping into a culturally confusing world full of strange new discoveries. The verdant jungles, wild and untended, were the perfect place to uncover buried secrets.

One evening after sunset, a group of my relatives headed to the village temple. The temple idols were bathed in the glow of flickering torches, while bells rang and sticks of incense burned. One of my cousins grabbed my hand, pulling me away from the swarm of worshippers and guiding me toward the remnants of a stone wall, with a vast green field just beyond, and an ancient-looking well at its center.

"People say that well is haunted by a yekshi," whispered my cousin with a smirk, "A ghost." She was in her late teens, too old to believe in such things, as was I, and while I knew that she was pointing it out more as a curiosity than as something to be feared, the moment was nonetheless arresting.

I lay in bed that night, thinking about the field and the well, and as I drifted into sleep, a tree with branches covered in red flowers entered the picture. I dreamed of two little girls huddling under the tree and the petals of the flowers showering down around them. When I awoke, I could not let go of that image, so I began to think about who those little girls were and why they were huddled under the tree.

The stirrings of a story growing in my mind caused me to see India in a new way. The village, the paddy fields, the Ayurvedic hospital that my grandfather, had founded--they all became characters, as well as the house.

My grandmother had recently passed away, and this was the first time we had returned without her. Her absence was palpable. The house seemed to have degenerated.

I never had the chance to meet my grandfather, who died when I was ten days old, but from stories I knew that he was a hero to his children and a man with enormous compassion for his patients. My grandmother had been the purest, most loving woman I had ever met. In their passing, something incalculably precious was lost--a sense of family history that having grown up thousands of miles away, I only rarely felt when I had wandered as a child through those old rooms. The house had fallen, not, like Ashoka, as a result of poisonous secrets, but from the inevitable passage of time.

Thus began Rakhee’s journey.

Review

"A daring fairy tale of a story, Nair's first novel audaciously tackles issues ranging from puberty to friendship to abuse, providing plenty of adventure as well." --Booklist

"The unexpected twists and dark secrets lurking make it difficult for readers to put this engrossing story down. A strong cast of well-developed characters will further capture their emotions. Fans of The Secret Garden (the author was inspired by this childhood classic) as well as lovers of family dramas and Indian fiction will find a new favorite in Nair." --Library Journal

"Lush and mysterious, The Girl in the Garden casts its spell from the first page. Kamala Nair weaves an intricate tale of family bonds, buried secrets, and the pain that comes when we must leave the innocence of childhood behind. This is a deeply satisfying novel." --Kelly O'Conner McNees, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

"Kamala Nair has crafted an evocative, passionate, tragic novel about love, loss and the terrible cost of family secrets. An impressive debut." --Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us

More About the Author

Kamala Nair was born in London and grew up in the United States. A graduate of Wellesley College, she studied literature at Oxford University and received an M.Phil in Creative Writing from Trinity College Dublin in 2005. She currently lives in New York City, where she has worked at ELLE DECOR.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Great story, easy read and a great ending.
Fariba
Kamala Nair did an exceptional job and paints a beautiful picture to this creative story.
Akima Rolle
I look forward to reading more books in future by this author.
readerkat

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Danielle Town on June 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I started this book just before bed, intending to only read for about 20 minutes - instead I stayed up all night reading because I could not wait until the next day to find out what happened. It is dark, intriguing, adventurous and relatable to all of us who have experienced that transition between childhood and adulthood in which it comes as a bit of a shock that your parents and extended family have pasts.

I don't read fiction unless it is a great story that keeps me interested. This definitely did that! A perfect beach/summertime read.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Pia Padukone on June 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I started The Girl in the Garden on a transatlantic flight. I had to change planes in London and I was irritated at being interrupted in the middle of the story, just as some of the intriguing questions and mysteries of The Girl in the Garden were making themselves known.

I loved the voice of young Rakhee, an innocent, cloistered girl who was exposed to a brand new world as a young woman and discovers the secrets of her family's past that will change her life forever. I loved the world Kamala Nair weaved, this Wonderland, where I, like Rakhee, was spirited away during the hours that I devoured this story. It was such a difficult story to read, because I knew I was closer to the end with each page that I turned. The descriptions depicted, the stresses of a young child learning the dark secrets of her family that have been hidden from her, these were all so magical, yet so very tangibly created.

The Girl in the Garden is perfect for that long flight, that incessantly rainy afternoon or simply when you want to get lost in a beautifully written book that will spirit you away. Turn your phone off and disable your doorbell, because nothing can tear you away from The Girl in the Garden.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By S. Syed on June 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As other reviewers have noted, it is impossible to turn away from this story once begun, so be forewarned and prepared to read it in one sitting. Though this is only to feel the loneliness of missing a great friend, and to want to begin all over again. Unlike many big stories that try the reader's patience with unnecessary details, Nair's novel efficiently contains a multi-generational family saga, loves, deaths, secrets, ruin, and rebirth. We feel the thrill (and terror) of the heroine's explorations in a new world, of her discovery of her mother's devastating deception, and finally of her catharsis in learning to let judgment evolve into compassion and a return to the people and places that almost destroyed her family.

The originality and beauty of The Girl in the Garden, its wonderful strangeness, and its lifelong friendship with the reader, lie in the heroine's narrative deftness in subtly yet wholly altering the reader's expectations and perceptions of the two worlds of the novel. Nair sharply contrasts the whited sepulcher of Plainfield, in a Midwest as cold and colorless and alienating as its name, with Malanad, a South Indian village as warm and riotously hued and vital as the Indian myths that Rakhee's cousins, her first real friends--particularly the bright, bold, brilliant Krishna--enact for their shy American visitor.

These stories come to signify the sheer force of living that Rakhee has been denied, and has begun to deny herself, as the neglected child of parents imprisoned within their own tragic pasts.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Christina (A Reader of Fictions) TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Now a newly engaged adult, Rakhee remains haunted by the events of her one summer in India. The novel tells the story of that summer in a long letter written to her fiancee, explaining why she must defer their engagement. Until she confronts her past, she cannot face her future. What happened that summer?

One of these days, I would really love to read a novel set in the Indian subcontinent or with first generation desi folk and not have it be almost entirely depressing. Sure, times are hard there, but there must be some books where no characters commit suicide by jumping into a well. I mean, there just have to be.

I did like this much better than Tiger Hills, but, be warned, its still very sad. Pretty much the only part that isn't completely depressing is the epilogue. Reading both of these novels, I get the idea of just how much family history can haunt people. The mistakes of the previous generation snowball into even worse mistakes by the next. Also, never try to marry your daughter off to an awkward, stuttering creeper, because it never ends well.

The Girl in the Garden confronts tough issues, like depression, arranged marriage, pregnancy and divorce. These issues are dealt with well for the most part, not hitting the reader over the head with an agenda. Through Rakhee, it is clear that issues of childhood take a long time to get over (so true), but that it is important to get closure before trying to be a real person, so that you can close the cycle.

The plot twists were pretty much all things I saw coming from many miles away. There really was no other way things were going to go. There is one twist that I swear was not revealed but must be the case.
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