Wow. I just. Wow.
This book held me in it’s thrall from the moment I read the first lines: Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet. Lydia, the favorite daughter of James and Marilyn Lee is missing early one spring morning. There’s denial, upset, worry, then panic until Lydia is found at the bottom of the lake. The story skips ahead and back, crisscrossing along the lives of the Lee family, beginning with the unlikely romance and marriage of James, a Chinese-American graduate student and Marilyn, a blonde beauty from Virginia intent on breaking out of the social norms of the 1950’s in her quest to get into medical school and become a doctor. Naturally her Home Ec instructor mother disapproves and refuses to see or speak to them after their courthouse wedding. When James loses an anticipated post at Harvard, the couple move to a small college town in Ohio and their insular lives roll on, through the birth of their children, Nath, Lydia and Hannah. Told from different perspectives, sometimes about the same events , you get a real feel for this struggling family. The characters all had distinctive points of view and were so heart-breakingly real I ached for them as I turned each page.
Ms. Ng explores family dynamics, the challenges of mixed-race families, the social mores of the time as well as the small moments and actions that can echo throughout our lifetimes, often as much as the big, cataclysmic ones. Beautifully and sensitively written, I read this straight through in a day, pausing to re-read some parts, then racing ahead once more. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I know it will haunt me for quite a while.
Their bodies are older now; he can feel his shoulders sagging, he can see the silver scars from childbirth criss-crossing just below her waistline. In the dark, they are careful of each other, as if they know they are fragile, as if they know they can break.