Gardens in the Dunes: A Novel
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Gardens in the Dunes: A Novel

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  600 ratings  ·  64 reviews
When Leslie Silko's Almanac of the Dead was published, The New York Times called it a "passionate indictment...that burns at an apocalyptic pitch". The flame burns even brighter with Gardens in the Dunes -- a magical combination of childhood idyll and bitter reality eloquently depicts the jungles of Brazil, and the great cities of the East.

A child of an ancient Indian trib

Hardcover, 480 pages
Published April 6th 1999 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1999)
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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
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...more
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.
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.
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.
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...more
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...more
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
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
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.
Bernadette A.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just started this book - I wanted one to bring me back to the earth - Leslie Marmon Silko is one of my favorite writers. In comparing what is going on in the book - war against the Native Americans in this counry and the war we are waging against another country, it seems we don't learn from our mistakes much.
Sara Mannheimer
I agree with everyone else who reviewed this book. The early stuff about Indigo's idyllic life in the ancient gardens was lovely, but the tiresome descriptions and lack of real wisdom or plot trajectory made the second half pretty hard to slog through. As my mom would say, "Good, though!"
By the time I was told that I am a feminist it was too late for me to argue. I think this book is yet another typical read one finds in college classes with titles like "Gender Studies". One does not have to be so enrolled or a woman lover to see the depth in a book like this.
Liked it. Leslie Marmon Silko creates beautiful images and her depiction of the differences between native american and european traditions and lifestyles gives a clear picture of the mess that was made of relations between the two cultures when we invaded the continent.
Although I really liked the story, I can't recommend this book. It really needed editing. Not only were there spelling mistakes, but the overly detailed descriptions of plants were just boring. If the book were tightened up and shortened, it would have been better.
Even though this book contains long descriptive passages, with which I usually get bored, I enjoyed this story very much. I takes place in the American Southwest in the early 20th century. The Native American characters were interesting and engaging.
Aug 25, 2008 Sissy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sissy by: masaxihua
the beginning of this book was amazing, and i didn't want it to end. And then, it did and i had the whole second half of the book to get through. which i did, but skimmed every time edward was involved.
but the beginning, amazing!
well, its no ceremony, but its pretty darned good. an international adventure at the turn of the century of an indian orphan girl. not a bad plot line, i just wish the narrative pushed forward a bit faster...
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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
More about Leslie Marmon Silko...
Ceremony Almanac of the Dead Storyteller Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit The Turquoise Ledge: A Memoir

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“the material world and the flesh are only temporary - there are no sins of the flesh, spirit is everything!” 8 likes
“Fortunately, her year of graduate classes prepared her for obnoxious conduct.” 6 likes
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