Well, I guess I owe Ms. Ng congratulations for writing a book that has seemed to appeal to so many people. Because despite the positive reviews and internet hype, I wanted to poke out my eyes with spoons after reading “Amazon’s Best Book of the Year for 2014.” You can go ahead and clutch your literary equivalent of pearls in your hands. I remain steadfast in my assessment. This book made me want to scream when I finished it. THESE ARE THE MOST ANNOYING PEOPLE I’VE EVER ENCOUNTERED AND I DON’T CARE ABOUT THEIR LIVES!
EXHIBIT 1: The narrator. Her voice is melodic and lyrical in the most boring way possible. She’s wistful, thoughtful, insightful, on the verge of tears with every word. Her female characters sound weak and fragile. Her male characters, clueless, with a chip on their shoulder. And the one that takes the cake? Her voice for James, our not-cool cool father, who sounds like an SNL caricature. BUT SHES NOT BEING FUNNY.
EXHIBIT 2: The aforementioned James. He has a wife who loves him, three kids he seems to love, a job as a professor…nothing overtly horrible here about his life. And he’s cheating on his wife. Yeah yeah, his daughter died (not a spoiler), I get that. But I call bullshit if that’s the driving force to his infidelity. This coming from a man who refused Chinese food in childhood and never spoke Chinese as an adult. But he finds the only other Chinese person in town who reminded him of his lost heritage with her cha siu bao, oh, and her loins. The irony isn’t lost on me. I’m sure a high school student could write an essay about the reasons for this, but IDGAF! His wife become estranged with her mother because she chose him over any white guy. She post-poned her education and dream of being a doctor to raise his children. Yes, there was…the incident…which is reason enough for him to disconnect emotionally and physically. But still, it grated on me.
EXHIBIT 3: Lydia. the one person we’d like a perspective from and it’s nearly non-existent, like her limp, soft boiled soul. And when we hear from her, it’s about how she has no friends or how she tries to make friends but they politely rebuff her. Her evil mother dotes on her and her horrible father shows a constant interest in her life. When she gets gifts, they’re NOT THE GIFTS SHE WANTS! Even when she gets the gift she wants, it’s NOT WITH THE RIGHT INTENTION! Except she doesn’t yell about anything, she just solemnly thinks these things. Because no one in this book outwardly emotes and their inward thoughts sound like pillows. I just want to smack her until she turns into someone I’m actually sad is dead.
EXHIBIT 4: Nath (Nathe? Nayth? who knows, it was an audiobook). Besides wondering wt actual f this guy’s name was every time I heard it, I wanted to scratch a chalkboard every time he’d misunderstand a situation or make some snarky comment to anyone. Urgh.
Listen, I’m sure this is a good book in a lot of ways, especially for a debut novel, and I’m happy for Ng’s success. Why would you listen to me? I didn’t forgive James for cheating on his wife when his daughter died and his wife did…the thing. I also think carrots go great with peanut butter and bananas with sour cream. So who am I to judge? But when I read something that enables me to see the back of the inside of my head due to extreme eye rolling, I know it’s just not for me.
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