‘Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.’
So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese-American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfil the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them all into chaos.
I purposely waited until all the online hype had died down to read this book. After Little Fires Everywhere was made into a TV show this book by Celeste Ng blew up too. I have often noticed that when I read a book that is super hyped during the period where all I see on my social media accounts is how amazing said book is, I always end up feeling disappointed in the book. So when I was gifted this book, I made myself wait a while before even considering reading it. So when I picked it out for my January reads, well it seemed like perfect timing!
The first impression that I got from the first few pages of this book was “this is going to be sad” and while it was, it didn’t seem to be as hard hitting as I thought it would be initially for me. But with that being said I think it was written beautifully. Celeste Ng, really does know how to create a beautiful-sounding sentence and just pieces of work in general. It was pleasant to read and easy to follow. Even with the book jumping forward and backwards in time in order to tell the story, I never once felt lost, confused or unsure. Which I give props to the author for, as a lot of these kinds of books with different perspectives and time periods in can seem confusing and difficult to follow at times.
I didn’t find myself full immersed in the book. While I enjoyed it, and I think it was well written, I don’t think I found it fully entertaining. I don’t think I’d have felt I’d have missed out on a big surprise reveal if I had not finished it. So if you’re wanting something that keeps you on the edge of your seat, read a thriller. As this won’t do it for you. But I don’t mean that as a negative point. I think this book is best read for someone who is wanting a story that has the heartache of real life and real possibilities. There is a twist and a surprise in this book towards the end (not including what it is, as we don’t like spoilers here) but it just adds to the heart ache of this story. It makes what happened in the book even more sad and it just makes you morn Lydia even more.
I didn’t really find myself attached to the characters that were left to morn Lydia, nor did I find myself disliking them, they were merely just there as part of her story. The person that you get attached to, weirdly as she is the one that is no longer there, is Lydia. You learn so much about who she was and who she could have been throughout the book, and I think that is a very smart way to bring about character growth, because ultimately, the fact that she is already lost to us, makes us feel the sadness of her story so much more.
All in all, I thought this was a good, smartly written book that will make your heart ache just a little. I wasn’t fully immersed into the book, and I felt like the other characters weren’t really pulling me in either. But the story and the way it made me feel for Lydia were so well done. I would recommend for contemporary fiction fans, I think they will enjoy this book quite a bit, and I would definitely read more of Celeste Ng’s work in the future. I think she is a talented author and creator.
Star Rating /5