I was totally blown away by this book, and I was not expecting to be. I kept expecting the plot to be twisty, in a way that would have undermined the story, but it was surprisingly free of manufactured drama. That’s not to say that the story unfolds in a completely predictable or straightforward way, but it was refreshing to read a book where the plot isn’t propelled by people being too credulous or stacking coincidences.
We open on an upper middle class home as the only person home discovers small fires in each of the rooms, apparently deliberately set. The brother and sister living there return from school to find the fire department, their parents, and a conspicuous absence of their younger sister outside; sure even before noticing she’s gone that she was responsible.
The intersection of the Richardson family with the Warrens – A mother and daughter (Mia and Pearl) renting out an apartment from the Richardsons – is the catalyst for Izzy, the youngest Richardson’s anger, but their intertwining and unwinding is the joy of the book, and far be it from me to do a worse job than Ng in outlining it and suffering by the comparison. Pearl’s friendship with the Richardson children, and Mrs. Richardson’s well-meaning condescension sliding off of Mia like water off a duck’s back make for the perfect kind of tragedy, understandable and inevitable.
The denouement is more perfect than it should be. I’m so excited to read more Ng, and also to see the late Lynn Shelton’s interpretation of a wonderful, wonderful book.