by Celeste Ng
This novel topped Amazon's Best Books of 2014... and I'm like, oh cool, I guess I'll read it. Plus it's not YA, so huzzah for stepping outside comfort zones!
Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart
My (brief) Thoughts
Tears and tears.
There's a lot to love about this book. The characters are complex and intriguing; they carry the story as we flit through histories and grief and the moments in life where perspectives clash and misunderstandings happen. Ultimately, it's a book about histories that shape individuals and the dynamics that hold a family together or tear them apart.
The writing was a little heavy handed at times- Ng's prose sometimes felt too 'tell' instead of show, especially regarding James and Marilyn. However, she shines when really creating the suffocating atmosphere of the Lee household, and setting the stage before and after Lydia's death. Each character had his or her own motivations and complex relationship with Lydia, which made the story richer and Lydia's death that much heavier. I appreciated Ng's refusal to shy away from the racial aspect of the novel and the harsh realities befell upon people of colour and intolerance of society, and felt particularly realistic given the time period and setting.
The story is quiet and beautiful and sad, it's about people and their desires and dreams and promises kept because of love. Oh, and tears. Definitely recommended!
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