by Kamala Nair
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Reading level: A
In a letter to her fiancé, a young woman shares a story of family secrets, betrayals, and tragedies.
Rakhee was only ten when her mother started receiving mysterious letters from India, letters that eventually prompted her to take her daughter back to her childhood home for the summer. Leaving behind her beloved father and pet dog in Minnesota, Rakhee is thrust into a world she barely understands, in an Indian village that time seems to have forgotten.
Soon Rakhee realizes that there is more going on than just a simple family reunion. Secrets have been hidden for years and, during that one Indian summer, they all come bubbling to the surface.
I'm not sure why I chose to read this book. It's certainly a change of pace from young adult paranormal fiction! But I actually really enjoyed this story.
While The Girl in the Garden is classed as an adult book, there's really nothing in it that would prevent teenagers from enjoying it. Nearly the entire story is seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl, so her understanding of events as they happen somewhat tempers the (at times) mature subject matter.
I loved the whole setting in India. Because Rakhee was born and raised in Minnesota, everything seen through her eyes seems exotic and unusual. The seeming unfairness of some of the cultural aspects was a bit disturbing, but not unrealistic. I really enjoyed Rakhee's relationships with her cousins (especially Krishna, who was close to her age), and the way the characters were portrayed made it easy to tell them all apart (something that's often troublesome when there's more than one of a specific type of character, such as aunts, uncles, or cousins).
The actual "girl in the garden" aspect reminded me of the story of Rapunzel (I think it was probably supposed to, since Rapunzel was mentioned a few times). However, it didn't seem out of place or contrived. Pretty much everything that was included made a lot of sense in the context of the story.
The ending was a little abrupt, and was probably the weakest part of the book for me. But the journey to get to that point was fascinating, intriguing, and even exciting at times. Since this is a galley, I hope that there's going to be a little more editing (there were a few punctuation and grammar mistakes, all of a sudden, in the middle of the book). But, all in all, this is definitely something I'd recommend. Look for it in June 2011!
Overall: 3.5 out of 5