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Her parents DO love her but poor bespectled short Rakhee Singh is lonely! All her blue eyed blond school mates exclude her from play. Her brilliant father, a physician, is so involved with his work that he barely has time for her. Her clinically depressed mother just doesn't have the capacity to care for her daughter except in a very peripheral way.
A trip from MN to her parents' native southern India the summer she is 10, turning 11, introduces her to at least a few cousins she can bond with.
She experiences a whole new world completely different from her home in Minnesota. And she stumbles upon a 'skeleton in the closet' of her family, a secret not meant to be discovered. Rather than ignore this mysterious situation, she gets in and faces the unknown and uncovers something scarey and shameful, yet fulfilling to Rakhee in some way.
You'll find many insights into Indian life, culture, music, myths, attitudes toward females, clothing,marriage customs, food, flora, fauna, snakes and especially superstitions beliefs. Rakhee becomes overwhelmed with the feeling that her mother may not want to return to America. She believes that her mom loves another man, someone her mom has known all her life.
Watch how status, caste, economic privilege and physical beauty play their part in the family dynamic.
Even if this book is a fiction, it could easily have been real.
See how this one summer's experiences detrimentally affects the next decade of her like as she tries to form a relationship with a young man who wants to marry her. It will take another trip to India to soothe her soul.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
An entertaining book that transports the listener to India through the eyes of Rakhee Singh (pronounced Rocky) as she recalls a pivotal trip in her youth to her parents homeland; a journey that has many parallels to The Secret Garden. Outwardly, it is obvious to the reader that there are problems with her parents marriage -- a gentle father that puts in too many hours at his medical job, and a nervous, depressed mother that suffers silently. In India, Rakhee finds a different life with cousins, aunts, uncles, that live in the same home, and a land very different from Minnesota, USA -- and a walled garden in a jungle she has been forbidden from (the usual "beware of snakes and tigers" scare tactic), but of course, Rakhee is adventurous.
This trip becomes both an outer and inner journey as Rakhee scales the wall and finds the "horrid" secret. You know what happens when deep dark generational secrets get out of the closet; a chain of dark sad events are set in motion.
The description is lovely, mostly about the vegetation, food, and daily activites, but I didn't feel as immersed in the foreign country as I have with some other reads about India, most likely because it is all described by a ten yr. old; and it takes quite a bit of stretching probability to buy in to this tale--but that's what makes fiction so entertaining isn't it?...the ghost "yekshi" stories, the forbidden jungles, the secret walls, the arranged marriages and creepy uncles...the "it just so happened that..."
Engaging and enjoyable -- it reminded me a bit of Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, in a more exotic location and a much darker outcome as the secrets unravel. The narration is done well, and Anitha Gandhi does an admirable job of becoming Rakhee and the several Indian characters.
12 of 15 people found this review helpful