The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Published on: June 2011
Page Count: 320
My Reading Format: Audiobook sent to me by the publisher for consideration
Audiobook Published by: Hachette Audio
Narrator: Anitha Ghandi
Audiobook Length: 8 hours 49 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook and Audiobook
Rakhee Singh is engaged. She loves her fiancé, but she doesn’t feel as though she can get married. She has a family secret that she has kept inside for so long that she knows that she can’t fully give of herself until she’s come to terms with it. She plans only her second trip to India while she secretly writes out her story for her fiancé to read. Before she takes her trip, she quietly leaves the story in the form of a letter along with her engagement ring. Just as she cannot be certain what she will discover in India, she cannot be certain that her fiancé will be open to continue their engagement after she’s gone. In the letter, we get to meet 10 year old Rakhee, the American born daughter of two Indian nationals. Her father is a respected daughter in Minnesota. Her mother came to meet her father when she came to the United Status to visit her cousin living there. Rakhee’s father adores her mother, but her mother suffers from depressive episodes. Rakhee tries her best to keep her mother happy, but she is unpredictable when she’s not taking her medication. It does not bode well for her first trip to Kerala, India, her mother’s home town, when Rakhee sees her mother flush the contents of her prescription bottle. It doesn’t take Rakhee long to discover that all isn’t what it should be in Kerala and that she has more to be worried about than her mother’s medication.
I work in the software development department at my company. Over the years, more and more talented developers from India have joined our team. I enjoy hearing stories about their homeland. Although I’ve never been there, I have so many friends who grew up there now that I feel a connection. When India is in the news, I perk up immediately. I haven’t read a great deal of fiction set in India or written by Indian authors, so when I had the opportunity to pick up this audiobook for review, I didn’t hesitate. Kamala Nair’s storytelling brought Kerala to life for me. I could see the vegetation and fruit trees. I could feel the heat compounded by the pent up boredom young children develop when out of school for long periods of time. I was just as curious as Rakhee was explore this new world. I was also nervous and tentative around the new people encountered there. Knowing that there was some grave secret lurking withing Rakhee’s story, I was suspicious of everyone and everything. I cared so much about her that I wanted to discover the secret before her and shield her from it. The story was written in such a way that I really only understood the implications before the younger, innocent Rakhee. The truths we discovered together.
Anitha Ghandi has a pleasant voice and her narration is well paced with the story. Her male voices weren’t as distinct from her female voices as they could have been. It was noticeable, but in no way took away from the experience. Ghandi’s voice was always clear and her Indian-flavored English was authentic. She made Rakhee that much more real by giving her a voice. I would definitely listen to other audiobooks she has narrated.
As it turned out, one of my coworkers was born and raised in Kerala. Talking to him about his home and how much I enjoyed this audiobook was an added pleasure. I told him how Nair painted the landscape and its people and he confirmed her picture. Hachette Audio also included a few extra nice touches to this production. A family tree PDF is included on the last disc as well as an interview with Kamala Nair. Coming at the end of this story was such a nice surprise. After hearing her voice through her novel narrated by Anitha Ghandi, it was wonderful to hear her physical voice. It capped off this novel so well.
The Girl in the Garden is a novel rich in place as it is in story. Kamala Nair is a talented writer and her interest and connection to her subject matter is present. Although not listed as a young adult novel, The Girl in the Garden appeals to adult and young adult readers alike. If you are looking for an adventure, look no further.