Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Gardens in the Dunes: A Novel” as Want to Read:
Gardens in the Dunes: A Novel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Gardens in the Dunes: A Novel

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  729 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Silko takes the reader on a Grand Tour of England and Europe in the era of Henry James (in a novel peopled with characters whose sensibility and language are brilliantly Jamesian), as seen through the eyes of a young Native American girl, Indigo, who is in flight from the destruction at the hands of the whites of her own tribal world. Indigo's fascination with the world of ...more
Hardcover, 479 pages
Published April 6th 1999 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1999)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Gardens in the Dunes, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Gardens in the Dunes

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,467)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Josiah Patterson
Though I've heard many people disregard this book, considering it to be feminist chaff, I was very much enthralled with the story and the painstakingly detailed description of the world as Silko re-creates it. While I didn't find any male characters with much sagacity or overt charm in her novel, Silko does touch on various topics with particular grace. Her discussion of women's role in religion--including Catholicism and different Native American spiritualities--was one that kept me engaged in ...more
I didn’t think I’d like this book because I had a negative impression of Silko, who can really like McArthur genius grantees? But I liked it very much. It’s set in the early 20th century on the banks of the Colorado River near Needles, and centers on two sisters of a almost extinct tribe. Silko uses a third person point of view that is quite rich in its description of the natural world around the character, as well as the character’s inner emotional state. She weaves several peoples stories, Ind ...more
Sally Brock
Nov 20, 2015 Sally Brock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd say if you're not willing to be totally immersed in this novel that you might have a tough go of it. I, however love Silko's work and fully committed myself to the experience. It could be circular and meandering at times, but I think all good tales are both of those things. The contrasting lives of Hattie and Edward with Indigo to Sister Salt's world was paced beautifully. As their respective circumstances grew more critical, the ironies and the conflicts became more elegantly drawn. Silko h ...more
Jul 12, 2009 Kathy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Book Club selection. I am two hundred pages into the book. It is VERY descriptive. While I enjoyed the first 68 pages of southwest desert description.....I am now skipping paragraphs as every flower in a Long Island garden is described. Because this book has been rated with four plus stars and I do want to know the fate of Indigo, the young girl, I am sticking with it. I think the book would be more enjoyable to me with half ( maybe one tenth as many descriptions.

It got on going desc
Apr 01, 2015 Eli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful, lush book. As a playwright, I struggled with the lack of dialogue, but I came to appreciate the necessity of the narrative style to the atmosphere of the story. Despite the "heavy" tone and the sorrow that permeates the plot, this is ultimately a hopeful book and one with a message I really needed right now: the Earth, and our connection to it, is what endures.
Jan 22, 2015 Mouselet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Religious readers, historical fiction readers, readers of native american authors
This was not the most comfortable read. Not because it was creepy or horrific, but because some of the religious aspects were presented in a way that...simply made me uncomfortable. Which I don't think is a bad thing.

I'll admit, this is a bit outside of my comfort zone as a reader. Not because it's historical fiction, not because it's written by a Native American, but probably because of the religious aspects. There was something about them that wasn't as easy to accept as ficticious religions,
Jan 07, 2011 Jesika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally found it! I read this book in college and have been struggling to remember the title after all these years. WONDERFUL story and so well done! I do have a biased opinion as I had a genius english professor picking apart all of beautiful meanings behind details that you may overlook when reading it solo.
I am going to read this one again as soon as I finish my current book.
Dec 13, 2008 Carmen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly the best book I have ever read. I totally connected with the main character, Indigo. I was truly sad when I finished the book because it felt like I had to let go of Indigo. I grew very attached to her and no book has ever made me feel this way about any single character.

Ms. Silko has a craft like no other when it comes to creating imagery.
Sep 27, 2014 Pam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is seldom that my opinion of a book differs dramatically from that of the reviewers whose partial reviews are listed in the preamble pages of a book, but with this one is an exception. This epic, set in the late 19th century, tells of the intersecting lives of a young Native American girl, Indigo, and an educated white woman, Hattie, who was a religion scholar until she was forced to leave school because of her non-traditional research topic. The two meet because of Hattie's marriage to Edwar ...more
Sep 03, 2012 SUSAN OWEN GLASER rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very, very interesting... As the reader, I was taken on a long winding trail and met many characters that all came to life for me. That is a difficult task, but Silko pulls it off really well. I felt like I knew every person. 'Gardens in the Dunes' left me thinking about it - long after the book was passed on to a friend.
It was a truly fascinating story raising lots of issues in my mind especially the harsh and inhumane treatment of Indians.
Indigo, a member of an indigenous clan called the Sand Lizard People, is aged around eleven, a very self-possessed young person in many ways. When she became separated from her family I was saddened and wondered about the chances of her ever settling again. She forms a close relationship with both Rainbow, a parrot that rides on her shoulder, and Linnaeus, a small monkey, bu
Nov 15, 2011 Derek rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Essentially a compendium of every complaint ever lodged against "literary" fiction--boring, plotless, needlessly intellectualized/symbolic, striving for profundity--Leslie Marmon Silko's Gardens in the Dunes is far shallower than its lengthy page count suggests, and is "challenging" only in that it is an utterly joyless slog to get through.

If you're looking for long passages (read: pages upon pages) of the story told in summary rather than scene, then perhaps this is the book for you. If you hav
May 16, 2013 spoko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race, fiction
I've been more and more interested in Native American spritual beliefs & traditions as I've read more and more of Vine Deloria's Spirit & Reason (a book I read intermittently—I've been reading it for years and have never finished). I don't like to be essentialist, or to act as though an entire continent full of people all held the same beliefs until the white man came and destroyed their unanimous culture or anything like that. But there are currents running through many Native American ...more
Kristen Suagee-beauduy
Feb 23, 2015 Kristen Suagee-beauduy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: native-lit
Not quite the action-packed epic that is Almanac of the Dead, or the purposefully laborious Ceremony, Gardens in the Dunes is an exquisite piece of storytelling that showcase the expansiveness of Silko's intellect, the magnitude of her research skills, and the deftness with which she weaves the weft of narrators through the warp of plot. Of her three novels, this one might be the spring to Almanac's summer and Ceremony's winter.

One of my favorite descriptions of Indigo came from Edward when he
Elizabeth Mcnair
Mar 20, 2015 Elizabeth Mcnair rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book follows the story of a young Indian girl who lives a hard life and gets separated from her family. She ends up with a white woman who treats her as her own and she travels with her from Arizona to the east coast and then on to England and ultimately Corsica. There is a lot of intersections with gardens as that is what the young Indian girl knows and her relationship with seeds. There is also a predominant religious theme that runs through the book as well as the thought that women prev ...more
Judy, Judy, Judy
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It is as if you are living the life of Indigo & Sister Sara, young Sand Lizard tribe girls who did their best to avoid the reservation & live as they were born to. The beauty & the authenticity are astounding.
Gretchen Chan
A big sentiamlist slog through semi-disbelief. IDK, wouldʻt reccommend it.
Mar 14, 2015 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved this
Sep 23, 2012 Pamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I'm going to hang in to the end, but it's a slog. The style is so pedestrian and the whole narrative reads like a young adult novel. Also sloppy copy-editing, e.g. reading twice in a paragraph that Hattie is feeling "strangely short of breath" -- or that first Hattie and then 100 pages later Edward think gladiolus are "vulgar." I gave this 3 stars (would have been fewer otherwise) because any book that manages to fit in both Mary Baker Eddy and Wovoka gets my big ups. But given the material, it ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Malcolm rated it really liked it
A tale of crossing cultures centred on Indigo, of the Sand Lizard people, stolen by the state and forced into an Indian school several states from home, and Hattie, a Dorothea Brook type character, who saves her to become her mentor. The novel takes in Brazil, the stately homes of England and New York, California and the US South West in a tale of redemption, rediscovery of the old ways, and survival (for both Indigo and Hattie) without romanticising native life. Utterly wonderful.
Lisa Findley
Nov 07, 2007 Lisa Findley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was wary of this book at first, but by the end I was hanging on every word. It was a nice bonus to read it for class and get the benefit of that discussion, but it's a great read regardless. I especially like how it doesn't modernize the characters too much -- you feel that this is really how Victorian people, even unconventional ones, would act, unlike many books/movies where entirely modern ideas about the world and our place in it are taken with the characters into period dress.
Jun 12, 2011 P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to P by: Bookclub, Malle Keinits
This book started out slow but I was glad I stayed with it. She did a great job of combining her interest in gardens both formal and wild, women who are strong characters. Statements on Sexuality without being in your face about it. An eyeopener for someone not familiar with indian schools and reservations and how we have so mistreated native americans, the politics of water in the west was also addressed. Good book.
Jamie Archer
Jul 20, 2013 Jamie Archer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I have become a big fan of Silko. While her writing is dense and hard to get through at times, I find myself getting extremely attached to the characters and storyline. I first read _Almanac of the Dead_, which was extremely intense, so I was surprised to find this work a bit lighter, and to be a beautiful story. It fascinates and impresses me the components that Silko weaves together to create such a beautiful narrative.
Jun 01, 2012 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Leslie Marmon Silko masters the use of transportive voice in Garden in the Dunes. It has a calm, matter-of-fact tone throughout the story. The descriptions of the various and widely varied gardens seemed to come from someone very much in touch with the green and growing. If you are mesmerized by gardening and considering gardens and can appreciate the overlap of two vastly different cultures, this book is for you.
I found that this book was more accessible than Silko's classic, Ceremony. Also, the detailed descriptions of the Arizona desert, and Indigo and Sister Salt's relationship, were very authentic. However, I found myself getting bored midway through(ANOTHER garden description?!?), and the purpose of some of the plot elements (like Hattie's rape) were unclear. Maybe there's something deeper going on?
But Silko covers ground that includes the early stages of women's rights, emerging female sexuality, the rape of the Amazon, early quack medicine, Gnostic mysteries, Celtic magic, and flower husbandry. Her palette has many colors, but everywhere the garden is a central theme.

At times a great story - boring when describing garden after garden...
May 24, 2008 Dfunky1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Therese Stanton in Ms. Magazine sums up this novel best: "The historical, geographical, and emotional scope of this sprawling novel is breathtaking. Silk tells and retells the stories of multicultural America and weaves them into the 'master' narrative of American history." And she does this with the most inviting and lyrical prose imaginable.
Sep 04, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a pretty awesome book about a Native American girl who is adopted by a botanist and taken all over the world to see the various gardens and bring them home. She eventually escapes with seeds and brings them to her people, who were originally gardeners in the desert. I learned a whole ton about orchids from this book.
Oct 15, 2011 B rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It feels as though these authors notice a lack of Native American fiction and thus rush to fill the gap which ultimately makes the stories fall short.
This book could be 200 pages shorter and a lot more powerful. Silko has some great plot devices that she just sort of throws to the side going: "meh." Infuriating.
Sep 13, 2008 Randi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everything I have ever read from Leslie Marmon Silko has been poignant, transformative, and very well written... and this book is no exception. It tells the story of two sisters separated, kept apart and their struggle to get back to one another in the deserts of the southwest and the wild gardens in the dunes.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 48 49 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native Women's Writings of North America
  • Mean Spirit
  • The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions
  • The Way to Rainy Mountain
  • Four Souls
  • The Grass Dancer
  • Shell Shaker
  • First Indian on the Moon
  • Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories
  • Fools Crow
  • American Indian Stories
  • The Surrounded
  • God Is Red: A Native View of Religion
  • Last Standing Woman
Leslie Marmon Silko (born Leslie Marmon; born March 5, 1948) is a Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the First Wave of what literary critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.

Silko was a debut recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Grant, now known as the "Genius Grant", in 1981 and the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas Life
More about Leslie Marmon Silko...

Share This Book

“the material world and the flesh are only temporary - there are no sins of the flesh, spirit is everything!” 11 likes
“Fortunately, her year of graduate classes prepared her for obnoxious conduct.” 7 likes
More quotes…