The Girl in the Garden
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The Girl in the Garden

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,503 ratings  ·  318 reviews
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.
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published June 15th 2011 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2011)
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The God of Small Things by Arundhati RoyA Fine Balance by Rohinton MistryThe White Tiger by Aravind AdigaMidnight's Children by Salman RushdieThe Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Best Indian Books
195th out of 510 books — 1,477 voters
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John BerendtThe Forgotten Garden by Kate MortonTom's Midnight Garden by Philippa PearceMansfield Park by Jane Austen
Gardens: Fact or Fiction set in a Garden Books
47th out of 90 books — 54 voters

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Audra (Unabridged Chick)
The feel of this story is American Southern Gothic, just set in India: noble family decaying from long-held secrets, countered by the lush, untamed landscape of their estate. Small town gossip, age old sins, and a child watching everything implode without fully understanding what she's seeing.

From the first sentence, I was immediately engaged. The narrator, Rakhee, is an Indian-American woman from Minnesota, now finishing grad school at Yale. At the start of the novel, she has left her fiance (a...more
Alayne Bushey
For most of her life Rakhee has locked away a summer of her childhood spent in the hot, dry climate of India. Having harbored this secret from her fiance, The Girl in the Garden is Rakhee’s letter to him as she leaves to confront her past and the lives that intertwine with her own back in India. Deep in the forest behind her ancestral home, a garden with a dark mystery lies shrouded under a canopy of foliage. We are transported to Rakhee’s childhood and the summer she discovered the garden in Ka...more
Tara Chevrestt
I'm still reeling from the ending of this... Wow. I seen some of it coming, but not all of it.

This is a tale about a ten year old Indian American girl whose troubled mother takes her back to India for one summer. Secrets begin to unveil... Her uncle owns the hospital but why does he cater to another man? Why is her mother always crying? What is going on between her mother and the man named Prem? There's a history there and the adults keep trying to hide something..

And then there is the garden....more
Laura de Leon
This is a beautiful, thoughtful story that occasionally nudges towards melodrama, but never quite gets there.

Kamala Nair follows in the footsteps of Jhumpa Lahiri with this beautifully written story of the child of Indian immigrants, but she also shows other influences-- I loved the echoes of The Secret Garden.

The book begins with a letter from the adult Rakhee to her fiance. For the reader, it simply sets up questions. There aren't many answers for her fiance either.

The story really gets starte...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
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...more
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My Review: I love when audiobooks surprise me, and The Girl in the Garden definitely did. Kamala Nair’s debut novel follows the dark family history of Rakhee Singh. The story begins as Rakhee removes her engagement ring and starts to write to her fiancee. She believes he needs to know the truth, but in actuality, Rakhee needs to let someone into her life, into the darkness of her family’s past.

Rakhee knows something is not right between her parent...more
The Girl in the Garden is as far as I can tell is the first novel by Kamala Nair which is surprising because it's rendered with the restraint and grace that many novelists only develop later in their career. The plot begins with Rahkee on the verge of her engagement as she recollects a summer she spent in India with her mom and her Indian Relations. Eleven year old Rahkee spends the first part of the trip contrasting India and her hometown of Plainfield, Minnesota, bonding with her cousins, and...more
CoffeeBook Chick
It is always a pleasant surprise to settle down with a book that you think could be a good story, and to be rewarded as a reader for the very faith that you presented it with.

While The Girl in the Garden begins with Rakhee immediately traveling for the second time in her life to India from America, leaving behind the ring her future husband gave her, the rest of the book is a flashback to one summer when Rakhee was only eleven-years-old. It was the very first time she had ever visited India with...more
I was surprised when I read a review for this and it said "not for the faint of heart." The reviewer said it was too sad and depressing. I found this interesting as this was one of the least depressing books I have read about India and it's culture. It still touches on the poverty and caste system, but also shows more of the beauty found in the country and culture and the interesting family dynamics of a family that is more "well to do." I was intrigued by the idea of the main character being bo...more
Kamala Nair's The Girl in the Garden reads like the awkward love-child of Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things and Jhumpa Lahiri's stories of the Indian diaspora in the United States. Apparently the author's strengths didn't extend past some flowery descriptions of Kerala (which, by the way, struck me as odd, because I've been in Kerala during the monsoons which coincide exactly with summer vacation in the United States and it RAINS AND RAINS AND RAINS and there was very little mention of that fa...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
Rakhee Singh had it all. She'll soon be graduating from Yale's, and starting a promising job. She has a wonderful family and is engaged to the man she loves. But she has a secret - something that still bothers her, something that happened when she was eleven and on her very first trip to India with her mother. Since then, her parents had separated and the events of that summer forever hung like a shroud over her. The Girl in the Garden is the story of that summer and Rakhee's subsequent efforts...more
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 Nai...more
The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair is a stunning debut novel framed by an older Indian woman who leaves her fiance to return to her ancestral home and deal with the past, which is a bit cliche. However, the bulk of the novel settles on Rakhee’s summer spent in India before her 11th birthday with her mother’s (Amma) mysterious family and away from her father, Aba. Clearly Nair’s prose has been influenced by fairy tales and is sometimes reminiscent of The Secret Garden and Little Red Riding Hoo...more
Sujata Massey
Books about NRIs returning to their family roots in India often are accused of focusing on how alienated the protagonist feels and how little they understand their roots. On the outside, that's how THE GIRL IN THE GARDEN seems it will turn out; but it turns the table on expectations and is an absolutely suspenseful, compelling read.

The novel starts with Rakhee, a US-born 11 year old girl visiting Kerala for the first time with her troubled young mother. Rakhee doesn't want to be there at all be...more
Rakhee Singh is about to graduate with a master’s degree from Yale School of Architecture and then begin what she hopes will be a promising career at a design firm in New York. She is also engaged to be married, but this night she is on an airplane back to India. She left her boyfriend the diamond engagement ring and the written story of why she was leaving without saying a word to him. Rakhee, in her note that was attached to story, said she couldn’t marry him until she unbound “…the demons tha...more
Karen Miller
For those who have wondered how old is too old to be fascinated by fairy tales, Kamala Nair has answered that question in her debut novel, The Girl in the Garden. The answer? There is no such thing as too old.

This beautifully written story is filled with intriguing characters, hints of mystery, and sprinklings of magic, that will touch any reader’s heart as a young girl – struggling to save her parents’ shaky marriage – sets out to unlock the family secret that she senses hangs over everyone’s...more
L (Sniffly Kitty)
What strikes me most about Girl in the Garden is its beginning. Kamala (the author) introduces everything and everyone so beautifully that I felt like I had fallen into her story world and was surprised to find myself on the couch.

The suspense in this mystery novel starts with some mysterious letters which arrive from India and slowly winds itself tighter and tighter. Parts of the mystery were revealed little by little, and I felt myself really wanting to know what happened. It is therefore unfo...more
When I picked this one up I saw that a reviewer called it a "modern Jane Eyre." That got my attention since I had just the day before finished Jane Eyre. Of course the setting also sucked me in to getting it since India is my favorite reading destination. So the bar was set high for me, and maybe that is why I only gave it a 3. The mystery storyline is actually very interesting, and I think the author did a good job creating her characters. I liked some, I was mad at some, I disliked some....tha...more
We were on vacation in Vegas and I forgot my book. This was the only non-shades of grey option in the gift shop so I decided to give it a shot. It was..well, probably better than my other options.

It was a quick read that held my attention but I didn't find it super riveting. If anything it was somewhat predictable. The Elle review on the back promised a "harrowing perspective on women's ever-changing cultural and social roles." Sure, there's some gender stuff, but Elle sort of over promised. So...more
Really liked this story, especially due to the fact that it was inspired by The Secret Garden and the parallels are interesting, yet it was a whole new saga. I was interested from the start—my only little tiny complaint was the feeling that the writer at times chose big words and flowery language to sound like a great writer when that was unnecessary; the story was intriguing enough without it. In fact, those were the only times I got distracted. I would read another story by Nair. That is, if s...more
Carly Taylor
I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up because I am a fairytale lover, and because I've been wanting to read more diverse books--and this book seemed like the perfect fit. I felt that the writing was simple and pretty, and conveyed emotions and descriptions easily. I found myself mostly interested in the characters and discovering their secrets. I enjoyed almost every character, except for the main character. I am not really used to reading books with a narrator as young as ten (I actually e...more
Overall I enjoyed the book but there was one nagging thing that keeps me from really recommending the book. In the first chapter, the narrator left her finance to return to India to resolve her past and a terrible secret. I kept waiting for the terrible secret but when it is revealed, it doesn't seem so terrible to me as the secret was an act done in ignorance. I just couldn't understand the guilt of narrator and that ruined the book for me.
I had the pleasure to hear the author read a very pivotal section of the novel last year. I picked this book up at the library and had a hard time putting it down! The story is compelling and I really enjoyed the writing. Have been to India once, but not yet Kerala, where much of the novel takes place, I enjoyed the author's guidance. Like the narrator we are taken from America to India, into a world of almost magical realism.
This was a well written and fascinating story of family secrets and discoveries. The author said "The idea for the book grew out of a single image I saw in a dream, which was of a tree with branches covered in red flowers and of two little girls huddling under the tree and the petals of the flowers showering down around them".
The author's favorite book growing up was "The Secret Garden" ( by Frances Hodgson Burnett ) so with thoughts of that and tales told to her, on her, childhood visits to Ind...more
Samantha Wilde
I read this book in two days. I could not put it down. It's lush and haunting and lyrical and so well-plotted. I put it on my list of best 2012 books.
Lori (Hellian)
Starts off very engaging, but it almost borders on melodrama - I ended up skimming. But I did skim the whole thing! So this is a 2.5.
I got this book a few years ago as a Christmas present for my sister. My sister only just read it a few months ago and recommended that I read it. At first Kamala Nair's story telling is intriguing but a bit slow, however after a few small chapters the story quickly picks up.

Kamala Nair is a real story teller, on par with some of my favorites including Frances Hodgsen Burnett. The Girl in the Garden takes you through so many emotions, through so many twists that I just can't tell you how satisf...more
If you have read any of my reviews in the past you must know by now that I absolutely love books that give me a taste of another culture...throw a young gal into the mix who is in the midst of life changes and I am hooked! We learn about Rakhee's life changing summer in India as she reflects upon that time before making a very important decision that will impact the rest of her life.

As a young girl Rakhee is an only child living with her parents in Plainfield, Minnesota. Both of her parents move...more
When this gothic and mysterious novel opens, Rakhee Singh is a young woman about to graduate with a master's degree from the Yale School of Architecture. She is engaged to be married, but is planning to travel to southern India to visit her relatives there. Before she leaves for India, she writes her fiancé a long letter in which she relates her family's secrets and hopes that he will still want to marry her after he reads it.

As a child, Rakhee lives in Plainfield, Minnesota, where her father i...more
Usually when I’m reading a book for review I think about things to say as I read. Halfway through this book I didn't know what I was going to say and now that I’m finished I still don’t think I can do it justice.

We are introduced to Rakhee as she is preparing to leave her sleeping fiance in the middle of the night. She knows she can’t marry him until she goes back to India and deals with her past. She leaves him a long letter explaining, and that explanation is the rest of the story in the book....more
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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 works at ELLE DECOR.
More about Kamala Nair...

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“It's too late for any of us. But you youngsters, you still have hope. Go and explore. Don't be afraid to search for the truth. There is nothing to fear.” 5 likes
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