By Celeste Ng
5 out of 5 stars
“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet”
This is the start of one of the best books I have read in a while. I felt like a fly on the wall spying on this imaginary family and what a story they had to tell.
The story follows the Lee family beginning with James, the father. He is Chinese American and has always felt as if he didn’t belong. His parents worked for the private school he attended. He felt embarrassed by them. He just wanted to be like everyone else, be popular. He becomes a professor of American history, the cowboy era, and he meets a student named Marilyn. She’s blonde and everything he sees as normal. All Marilyn wants is to become a doctor. Her mother teaches Home Ec and thinks having a husband is the be-all-end-all. Marilyn wants nothing to do with that until she meets James. They marry at a time when mixed marriages were frowned upon and illegal in some states but they live their lives in 1970s Ohio, soon raising their own three children. Lydia is the middle child and the one that both parents have seemed to have hung every dream on. Her mother works her everyday, giving her gifts of only books. Her father tries to make her go out and become popular. They think she is everything they believe but there are so many things none of this family tells each other. Lydia leans on her older brother Nath, whose dreams of attending Harvard and leaving are coming true, much to the fear of Lydia. And poor Hannah, she seems to be ignored by everyone and yet takes everything in. It all changes when Lydia goes missing and then is found dead. Was it murder? Was it suicide?
I was wrapped up in this family from the opening lines. It is so well written that I felt my heart breaking as each character fell apart. Every character is written with such depth and compassion, even the character of their neighbor James, who also was living a lie in his own life. I felt I knew the insides and outs of this family and wanted nothing more than for them to find whatever happy ending they could reach. I highly recommend this book.