A Bit of Earth
Published March 14, 2023
About A Bit of Earth
Maria Latif is used to not having a space of her own. But what happens when she feels the sudden urge to put down roots in the most unexpected of places?
Growing up in Pakistan, Maria Latif has been bounced between reluctant relatives for as long as she can remember–first because of her parents’ constant travel, and then because of their deaths. Maria has always been a difficult child, and it never takes long for her guardians to tire of her. So when old friends of her parents offer to “give her a better life” in the United States, Maria is shipped to a host family across the world.
When Maria arrives on Long Island, things are not quite what she was expecting. Mr. Clayborne has left on an extended business trip, Mrs. Clayborne seems emotionally fraught, and inexplicable things keep happening in the Claybornes’ sprawling house. And then Maria finds a locked gate to an off-limits garden. Since she’s never been good at following rules, Maria decides to investigate and discovers something she never thought she’d find: a place where she feels at home.
With a prickly main character, a sullen boy, two friendly allies, and a locked garden, A BIT OF EARTH is a reimagining of THE SECRET GARDEN.
I probably say this every time, but I feel like it’s always a little bit of a risk to read a reimagined version of a childhood favorite story. One of the reasons I was excited about this is that it centers on a girl from Pakistan with an inclusive cast.
I loved the way this book highlighted and connected Maria’s rigidity and contrariness with her grief and loneliness. This is present in the original story, too, but I loved the way the author brought those parts of Maria to the page. I felt like I understood Maria’s character and her heart in a way that I’m not sure I ever understood the main character from the original.
Another fantastic but unexpected element of the story for me was in the relationship between Maria and Lyndsay. She’s the second wife of Mr. Clayborne, the wealthy couple who has taken Maria in. Not only does Maria find a way to bring life back into the neglected garden, but she also helps Lyndsay’s courage to blossom again. I loved the way the story captured that transformation and celebrated the relationship between those two girls.
Readers who enjoy reimagined stories will like this one. I think readers looking for realistic fiction about a lonely girl and the way that gardening helps her find herself again will also love this one.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Maria is from Pakistan. Additional characters are Desi, too.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Maria attends a Milaad, which she tells Lyndsay is a religious celebration.
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