Publishing Date: May 12, 2015 (Paperback) | June 26, 2014 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Pages: 320 pages
The Premise: The story takes place in the 1970s in Ohio and follows the Chinese American family, the Lee family. Lydia is the daughter of Marilyn and James Lee. When Lydia passes away from a mysterious drowning, the perfect image of the Lee family starts to unravel as secrets are uncovered. The story follows from the perspective of Marilyn, James, and their other children, Nath and Hannah.
My overall thoughts and review: I've seen this book around for quite some time now and I'll be honest, I did buy it to fulfill a popsugar reading challenge last year. It was to read a book by an author with the same initials as me. I knew very little about the book and was a bit reluctant to pick it up immediately after purchase because I'm terrified of water myself, so a book about drowning? When is there every a good time to jump into that? One of my best friends had recently finished the book and loved it, and I was also rethinking my doctoral studies of wanting to incorporate more fiction with an Asian American focus, so I dove in.
I really did not know what to expect, but from the first chapter, I was immediately drawn in by Ng's beautiful writing. The passages read to the reader in such a way that is so welcoming! Ng offers the story of how Marilyn and James first met, and I found this part of the story particularly interesting because of how it parallels to my life as a doctoral student. The story also tackles the issue of racism and expectations during the time of the 1970s, and although, we would like to think today we have grown past all of that, expectations and what is "proper" and what "should" happen, unfortunately still linger. Ideas of who you "should be with" based on race, still linger. Some people are still very traditional in that sense, and I feel like a lot of the issues that James mentioned, I faced growing up as well. I enjoyed that Ng did not sugar-coat anything and that she pushed the boundaries of the readers comfort zone. She was able to make you love both Marilyn and James together, but also love them individually, especially when they didn't particular agree with each other. I also really enjoyed how she was able to flow from the narratives of Marilyn and James, and then to Lydia, Nath and Hannah. It was quite interesting that the main question of "What really happened to Lydia?" lingered throughout but wasn't the focal point. This book mainly tackles issues of family and relationships and most importantly, expectations that people have of us, and expectations we have of ourselves. This was truly a wonderful read and I'm so glad that this is my first read of 2016. What a way to start off the year. I would highly recommend this remarkable story to anyone!
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)