Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Girl in the Garden-Kamala Nair

The Girl in the Garden

Kamala Nair

Grand Central, June 15 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780446572682

Rakhee Singh grew up in Plainfield, Minnesota. Her father Aba was a research cardiologist at the Plainfield Clinic and her mother Amma worked part-time at the Chippewa Mall though she mostly was a housewife. During her first ten years, Rakhee never made a friend as she felt like an outsider. When she was eleven years old, a letter arrived from India that left Amma weeping. Not long afterward, mood-swinging Amma informs Rakhee when school ended for the summer that they would travel to her family’s village Malanad in Kerala while Aba stays in Minnesota.

Her three cousins welcome their American relative while the adults warn her to never enter the nearby jungle as that is dangerous. She assumes they are superstitious or playing adult bogyman games to frighten the children into behaving. Rakhee explores the forbidden zone but finds a dark secret that explains what haunts her mother and others. Years later she leaves behind an engagement ring in Connecticut to return to Malanad, India.

The Girl in the Garden is an engaging family drama as secrets are revealed, which torment her mom and frighten Rakhee as she learns the truth does not necessarily set one free until one accepts the truth. Character driven, readers will appreciate this Indian tale while wondering what happened to make Amma unhappy in the States and go home to live as a reclusive ascetic.

Harriet Klausner

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