“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.”
And if that isn’t one of the best opening sentences you have ever read, you’re wrong. Moving on.
This story was an absolutely stunning read. It tells a story of a Chinese-American family living in small-town Ohio in the 1970’s who are dealing with the death of their middle child, Lydia.
I went into the novel expecting the normal ‘murder mystery’ type of book where the entire plot revolves around how and why Lydia has died, but boy was I wrong. Celeste Ng has crafted an absolutely stunning read that covers such a wide range of issues from broken families to depression, and prejudice and belonging. It also manages to cover race-identity and gender-identity all within 304 pages – so for that I truly have to applaud the author.
The centre of this story – Lydia’s death – is a platform which the author uses to explore this family in depth. This book is not a story about death, but more so the lives of the Lee family as they learn of her disappearance and eventually have to deal with the loss of their daughter and sister.
Ng’s prose is outstanding and gorgeously written. Ng has a way of really subtle storytelling but the tension she builds is almost excruciating. She skips from past to present frequently as she writes, weaving in a history of the characters, slowly revealing the subtle ways this seemingly close-knit family do not know each other at all.
Overall, a remarking, emotional contemporary drama packed full of fleshed-out characters, powerful relationships and intriguing mystery. I would definitely recommend picking this one up if you’ve had your eye on it, I’m very glad I did. I’m definitely eager to read whatever Ng writes next.
4.5/5 stars. ▲