Lydia is the favorite child in a mixed race family. At the beginning of this 1970’s family drama, readers find out that Lydia is dead and her body has been found in the middle of the school lake. The remaining of the novel goes back in time and tells the story of how her death occurred via each of her family members. We find out that James, her Chinese father, really wants Lydia to be popular at school because he was a bit of an outcast growing up. Marilyn, her American mother, gave up a lot when she married James and got pregnant with their first child. She had big aspirations to be a doctor and not a housewife like her mother. Marilyn decides that if she can’t be a doctor she will do everything in her power to make sure Lydia becomes one. Her older brother, Nath, is extremely intelligent but is barely noticed because all of his parent’s attention is on Lydia. Hannah, the youngest, is portrayed almost as a shadow that slips in and out of rooms with little to no recognition. As the story unfolds, each family member’s perspective weaves a tale that is both intriguing and thought provoking.
While this novel started out a little slow for me, I was extremely glad that I read it. Celeste Ng does an amazing job of telling this story about family life. In every family there are so many different perspectives and view points that have to coexist and while James and Marilyn had loving intentions for Lydia, it is obvious that their desires are not her desires. This book is definitely not a light summer read, but I highly recommend that you add it to your summer reading list. It’s also a great book club pick with lots to discuss.
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