Author: Celeste Ng
Published: May 2015, Penguin Books
Format: Paperback, 292 pages
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 thoughts: This is a debut novel for Celeste Ng and while I didn't pick it up when it first came out, I was fortunate to be given a copy when it came out in paperback. It's a heartbreaking look at family and how the breakdown of communication can have disastrous results.
This book is such a compelling read. What happens when no one in a family understands the other? Here's a mixed-race family of five that doesn't realize just how out of touch they are with each other until tragedy strikes. Right from the very beginning of the book, the reader is told that Lydia, the middle daughter is dead, but the family isn't aware of this fact. As the story comes together, it moves back and forth in time, and is told from all five perspectives, which really allows you to connect with each of the characters.
This is a tragic read and really makes you think about just how fragile and complex family relationships are. What happens when parents put too much pressure/focus on one child almost to the exclusion of the others? Do parents take their own pasts and use that to form all their decisions about their children? Is this healthy? These are just some of the questions that this book looks at and will have you thinking about. It's not necessarily a fast read, but it's one that will certainly stick with you long after you've finished reading that last page.