REVIEW: THE GIRLS IN THE GARDEN, BY LISA JEWELL

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Clare Wild and her two daughters, Grace and Pip, had landed in the Virginia Park area of London following the tragic fire that burned their home down. The fire was set by her mentally ill husband Chris. Now with her husband tucked away in a psychiatric hospital, Clare is on her own.

Almost immediately, Clare and her girls are thrust into the communal nature of the area, welcomed by Adele, an earth mother type who homeschools her three daughters, and includes everyone in parties and barbecues. Clare is reluctant, but she complies.

Adele and Leo’s three daughters seem a little wild to Clare: Catkin, the oldest, has dreadlocks in her hair; Fern, the middle daughter, is obsessive and constantly clutches a satin comforter; and Willow is in constant motion, physically and verbally.

A group of the teenagers has already formed, one that includes a boy named Dylan and another strange and somewhat mean girl named Tyler. But if Grace and Pip do not join in, who will they hang out with? So they become part of the wild and crazy “gang,” participating in a free-for-all with nobody governing their behavior, as nobody seemed worried about their activities.

The Girls in the Garden was narrated by multiple voices, including Clare, Pip, and Adele, among others. Secrets from the past surface during those months spent in the communal garden, and when something tragic happens to Grace, there will be many questions, as well as flashes back to what happened years before. A death that was never solved.

Did one of the girls do something to Grace? Or could Leo or even his strange father Gordon have been responsible? Why is the somewhat disturbed girl Tyler the first one everyone thinks of when talking about events? Finally, though, why is Grace not pointing her finger at anyone or telling a different version, other than “it just happened”?

In the end, the reader must draw her own conclusions, or continue to ponder the mysteries. Definitely a book for those who enjoy secrets, mysteries, and the puzzling dynamics of group behavior. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.