"Lush and mysterious...casts its spell from the first page...This is a deeply satisfying novel." - Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Island of Doves
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.
Nair's accomplished debut is a familial drama spanning multiple decades. Rakhee Singh has spent years avoiding memories of the transformative summer when she turned 11, but her betrothal forces her to realize she needs to acknowledge her past before she can move forward. "Keeping secrets had become second nature, an inheritance passed down from mother to daughter like an heirloom." As a young child in Minnesota, Rakhee senses her mother's unhappiness, and this feeling intensifies after a batch of mysterious letters arrives from India. Her mother's moods become unpredictable, culminating in the decision to visit her family in rural Kerala with Rakhee, leaving her husband behind. In India, Rakhee longs to explore the jungle surrounding the family's home, but is warned about a superstition prohibiting children from entering it. Rakhee disobeys and what she discovers there is a tangled web of deceit that will haunt her for years. Nair creates a satisfying coming-of-age tale with smooth prose and a lustrous backdrop.