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The Girl in the Garden
by Kamala Nair
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446572683, Hardcover)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.
Amazon.com Exclusive Essay from Kamala Nair
The idea for The Girl in the Garden grew out of a single image I saw in a dream. It happened one night during a trip to Kerala, India, in the winter of 2004.
We were staying in the rambling farmhouse where my father grew up, a place I had often visited as a child. Growing up, The Secret Garden was one of my favorite novels, and whenever I came here, I felt like Mary at Misselthwaite Manor, stepping into a culturally confusing world full of strange new discoveries. The verdant jungles, wild and untended, were the perfect place to uncover buried secrets.
One evening after sunset, a group of my relatives headed to the village temple. The temple idols were bathed in the glow of flickering torches, while bells rang and sticks of incense burned. One of my cousins grabbed my hand, pulling me away from the swarm of worshippers and guiding me toward the remnants of a stone wall, with a vast green field just beyond, and an ancient-looking well at its center.
"People say that well is haunted by a yekshi," whispered my cousin with a smirk, "A ghost." She was in her late teens, too old to believe in such things, as was I, and while I knew that she was pointing it out more as a curiosity than as something to be feared, the moment was nonetheless arresting.
I lay in bed that night, thinking about the field and the well, and as I drifted into sleep, a tree with branches covered in red flowers entered the picture. I dreamed of two little girls huddling under the tree and the petals of the flowers showering down around them. When I awoke, I could not let go of that image, so I began to think about who those little girls were and why they were huddled under the tree.
The stirrings of a story growing in my mind caused me to see India in a new way. The village, the paddy fields, the Ayurvedic hospital that my grandfather, had founded--they all became characters, as well as the house.
My grandmother had recently passed away, and this was the first time we had returned without her. Her absence was palpable. The house seemed to have degenerated.
I never had the chance to meet my grandfather, who died when I was ten days old, but from stories I knew that he was a hero to his children and a man with enormous compassion for his patients. My grandmother had been the purest, most loving woman I had ever met. In their passing, something incalculably precious was lost--a sense of family history that having grown up thousands of miles away, I only rarely felt when I had wandered as a child through those old rooms. The house had fallen, not, like Ashoka, as a result of poisonous secrets, but from the inevitable passage of time.
Thus began Rakhee’s journey.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:56 -0400)
When Rakhee Singh is ten years old, her mother takes her from their Minnesota home to visit relatives in India. There she discovers a family secret that will haunt her. Only as a woman on the verge of marriage does Rakhee find the strength to confront the events of that summer and face the price of secrets.
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