Leslie Marmon Silko, a well-known Native American author, delivers rich prose and a captivating plot in Gardens in the Dunes (1999). The book is a rare work of fiction that fuses imaginary stories with historical and horticultural facts that will pique the interest of many.
Set at the turn of the 19th century, Indigo and her older sister are the last members of a little-known tribe living in a desert garden oasis. The story follows the young girls as they struggle to survive persecution by American authorities.
Eventually ‘Indian police’ capture the pair and Indigo is sent to an Indian boarding school, while her sister is forced to move to a reservation. As the two displaced sisters try to reunite, the plot thickens. Silko includes a diverse character set and discusses a great number of historical issues, but the gardens in the dunes remain at the heart of the novel.
An intricate fictional storyline and reoccurring themes of botany, horticulture, and respect for the natural world will keep readers turning the pages. For a more thorough summary, see a brief synopsis in Time magazine or a longer review by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The great majority of our reviews will focus on nonfiction. But occasionally we all need a good fictional tale. Finding fiction that incorporates themes of agriculture, ecology, or other related subjects has proven difficult. If you have any suggestions, please share!