Kamala Nair’s first novel was inspired by a trip to the tiny village in India where her father grew up. Nair describes her novel as a dark fairy tale, combined with a coming-of-age. Perfect choice for a teen summer read.
Adult/High School–Rakhee Singh is 10 when she journeys from Minnesota for a summer visit to her mother’s family in a remote area of India. A shy but curious child, Rakhee hardly feels welcome when her cousins taunt her about the darkness of her skin and her aunts deride her weak eyesight, both of which she inherited from her father. She knows little of the provincial customs and caste structures and even less about the secrets that compel her extended family to behave so mysteriously and rudely around her. When Rakhee sneaks into the forbidden forest behind the family home, she discovers an exquisite walled-in garden where a girl has grown up completely isolated from the world. Rakhee befriends the mysterious girl, but her covert visits set in motion events that will tragically alter her family. It is not until many years later when Rakhee abandons her betrothed and returns to India that she finally confronts the complex relationships and entangled loves that seem to be her family heritage. Wanting her boyfriend to know the reason she has abandoned him, she leaves behind a manuscript telling the story of that long-ago summer. That manuscript becomes Nair’s first novel. It is an engaging family drama of unspoken secrets that will satisfy teens who enjoy stories teeming with mysterious characters and set in exotic locales where wandering white peacocks, girls imprisoned in gardens, and doomed love all seem completely at home.–John Sexton, formerly at Westchester Library System