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Into the Bright Open: A Secret Garden Remix

by Cherie Dimaline

Into the Bright Open, by Métis author Cherie Dimaline, reimagines The Secret Garden through an anti-colonial lens. It is the eighth book in the Remixed Classics series, in which authors from under-represented backgrounds take literary classics of the English-language and reinterpret the stories through their own lenses. While Frances Hodgson Burnett’s protagonist Mary moves from British-colonized India to Yorkshire, Dimaline’s Mary is taken from Toronto to Georgian Bay. Although both Marys disdain where they grew up, Dimaline’s Mary moves from a white, upper-class environment that she found cold and restrictive to a home where everyone, even the staff, seems to be treated like family, and many of the people she connects with are Indigenous.

In her new home, accompanied by her uncle’s Métis maid, Flora, Mary tastes freedom for the first time and begins to question the societal roles she’s accepted as immutable. This is especially true once Mary meets Flora’s sister, Sophie. Sophie is vivacious and unafraid to step outside of social norms. But there is a darker side to the household – Mary’s cousin, Olive, has been locked in the attic for years due to an unspecified chronic illness that her stepmother calls a “nervous condition.”

Olive is kind and open, happy to make friends with Mary right away, but asks Mary to keep her visits a secret. Olive is kept out of sight year-round due to her illness and is not supposed to have visitors. When Rebecca, Olive’s controlling stepmother, returns to the house, it quickly becomes obvious that there is something deeply wrong in Mary’s new home.

Mary, determined to free Olive, recruits Sophie to investigate the mysteries surrounding her uncle’s family. Some, like the locked-up, overgrown garden they discover in the woods on the family property, make her new home seem magical. Others, like the cause of Olive’s lingering illness, are more sinister. Now that Mary has family, friendship, and, with Sophie, a burgeoning romance, she is determined to keep herself and her newfound loved ones safe.

Into the Bright Open subverts many of the racist, heteronormative, and ableist tropes found in The Secret Garden, and its strengths lie in what Dimaline adds to the story – Mary’s romance with Sophie, Olive’s Métis identity, the white stepmother, and the complex power and racial dynamics that underlie all the relationships in the story. Into the Bright Open is a refreshing remix, but no knowledge of The Secret Garden is required – it stands very well on its own.


Reviewer: Allison Mills

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends/Raincoast


Price: $26.99

Page Count: 288 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-1-25084-265-7

Released: September

Issue Date: September 2023

Categories: Children and YA Fiction, Kids’ Books

Age Range: 13+