Patricia's Reviews > The Girl in the Garden

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
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's review
Sep 22, 2011

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 is a research scientist. She is treated like an outsider by her classmates, because her background is different from theirs. When Rakhee is almost 11 years old, her mother Chitra receives a letter from India that makes her decide to return to her family's home for a lengthy visit. Because Rakhee's summer vacation is approaching, her mother takes her daughter along on the trip to meet her Indian relatives. Chitra's family was once very wealthy and well-respected, because her father had founded a local hospital. In the years since Rakhee's grandfather died, the Varma family's fortune has declined, although they still appear to be well-off by local standards. When Rakhee and Chitra arrive, the members of the Varma household include Rakhee's grandmother, her aunt Sadhana and uncle Vijay and Sadhana's three daughters. Rahkee gets to know her cousins and spends hours playing with the younger girls. But almost from the beginning, Rakhee senses that something is wrong and that some secrets are being hidden from her. That only makes her even more determined to discover the truth. She doesn't like it when her mother's old boyfriend begins paying regular visits and worries that their romance might be rekindled. A sinister man named Dev frequently visits the Varma residence and they are forced to treat him with respect, since he now manages the family's hospital. However, they don't appear to like him much. Her mother and her aunt warn Rakhee to stay out of the woods behind the house, but because she is curious, she disobeys them and makes a startling discovery with far-reaching consequences.

I enjoyed this novel and was intrigued by it, even though I figured out most of the plot developments in advance. The exotic location and mysterious characters helped to sustain my interest.

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