Reviewed by Alisha Churbe

The Girl in the Garden is narrated by Rahkee, now in adulthood, who is keeping the secrets of her past and family from those around her, specifically the man she loves and has just agreed to marry. The novel opens with Rahkee secretly packed to return to India to face the past that began the summer she turned 11.

“This is why I am leaving behind the diamond ring, which I never should have accepted in the first place, not when there are still these secrets between us.”

A letter arrives from India that forces Rahkee on a plane to face her demons, as the story unfolds, Rahkee returns to that summer and explains all the events that led up to her eventual secrecy. Rahkee reveals not just one secret, but a tightly knit package of many secrets, layers of them. The family is structured as many families with the secrets hidden deep within the gaps and the folds. Each page of Nair’s novel reveals more. The story ends in the present time just as it began, where Rahkee and the reader realize the magnitude of all that has occurred and how all has affected present life.

Nair’s writing is lyrical and the story moves quickly. There are elements of magical realism, allowing some of the family’s stories to embody enchanted qualities, but does not reach too far beyond belief. The story is of a family that makes tough decisions, suffers the consequences and buries the past within deep caverns. The novel takes you on a walk through these caverns to reveal the circumstances which forced these secrets into hiding in the first place. Nair’s characters are well developed, although many in number, and each unique enough to avoid any confusion.

The Girl in the Garden is an impressive debut by an author I am excited to read again.

Rating: 3.5/5

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Grand Central Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.