This is not a feel-good book. It drowns you in grief and chokes you with secrets. It deals with family dynamics, gender roles, racial discrimination, and death. This is the story about the interracial family in the 1970s in a small Ohio town and how they deal with their favorite daughter’s shocking death. Was it suicide or was she murdered?
The Lee family dynamic was full of underlying messages that were not well communicated and often conflicted. Parents having different expectations for the same child. Siblings fighting over attention but only one getting it. Therefore, there are many cases of misunderstandings that cut to the core. Celeste Ng did a fantastic job of making each member of the family a complex with their substantial secrets. Each of them hid their struggles and they all seemed just out of reach from each other. It was a heavy read as the narrative changed between each family member including flashbacks from Lydia, the deceased. It was also a hard read because one of the underlying themes is that you can’t always achieve your dreams exactly as you wish because unexpected life circumstances will throw you out of orbit.
My favorite character in this book is Hannah. My heart went out to her as she was the most innocent and the most forgotten. She seemed to be a vehicle to move the story along as it can get stuck sometimes dwelling in the grief. She also seemed to channel the inner child in all of them that was desperate to connect the family.
I would recommend this book for adult readers who are looking for something heavy and complex. This is not a light-hearted book about families coming together with a happy ending. This is full of grief and misunderstanding. I would not recommend this book for readers who may be offended or triggered by the following: violence, infidelity, misogyny, racial discrimination, sexually suggestive scenarios, parental abandonment, gender roles, and the death of a sibling, child, and/or parent.