Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. 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. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.
Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Expected publication: June 26th 2014 by The Penguin Press
Genre: Adult Fiction
I received an advanced readers copy of this book from Penguin Press via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is June 26, 2014. Thank You!
"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet."
This is how the book begins. If that doesn't catch you from the get go, I don't know what will. Don't be mistaken though. This is not a murder mystery or thriller but a sweeping family drama about one mixed race family in the 1970's and the events that lead up to Lydia's death and how they cope after.
Although the story begins with Lydia's death, it is actually so much bigger than that. Through the point of view of each family member we learn about their history and the life events that alter and change their path and lead them ultimately to the tragic event. We hear from James and Marilyn (her parents), Nathan and Hannah (her brother and sister) and from Lydia herself.
James grew up as the only Chinese American student in his school and wanted nothing more than to be accepted and fit in. Marilyn wanted to break the mold that her mother desired for her and become a doctor in a male dominated field. When the two meet and fall in love, the paths they were heading towards are altered permanently. Through their middle child they both see the opportunity for her to be the things that they never could be. We begin to understand the pressure this has on Lydia to be the perfect daughter with unwavering attention and high expectations. Through Nathan and Hannah we also discover what life is like for the disappointment and the invisible child and the toll it takes on them.
Ng disects the family beautifully and in a way that keeps the pages turning. By the time you finish the book you have a real understanding of all of the characters as well as haunting connection. I was truly invested in each and every one of them.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a beautiful and well written story. I absolutely loved it!
About the Author
Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. She attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is the recipient of the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and son.
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