The Girl in the Garden
by Kamala Nair
There are a million stories in the naked city, and a million writers trying to get them published. At times like this, I really have to wonder: Why this one? How was it that author Kamala Nair won the golden ticket? Because I just don’t see it.
The novel opens in the present day in the form of a letter from first person narrator Rakhee to her fiancée. “By the time you read this, I will be flying over the Atlantic on my way to India. You will have woken up alone and found the diamond ring I left on the bedside table and beneath it, this stack of papers you now hold.” Okay, already I find her unsympathetic because that “stack of papers” is in fact the 300-page manuscript that makes up the novel. Premeditate much, Rakhee? Well, never mind adult Rakhee because this is a coming of age tale about the summer that Rakhee turned 11. It was a pivotal season in her life and as she explains (in absentia) to her fiancée, until she comes to terms with her past, she can’t move forward with their marriage.
Rakhee is not so suspicious or easily manipulated as her cousins, and before long she has discovered a mysterious cottage surrounded by a beautiful garden, all behind a tall, locked fence. And, she eventually discovers the deformed girl who is the cottage’s sole resident… Are you fully appreciating the references to The Secret Garden yet? That is just one of the many motifs in this dreary melodrama.