First line: “Lydia is dead.”
When I was touring libraries in Warren County, NY this summer, I
overheard a library patron tell a librarian to recommend this book to
anyone wondering what to read. She said she had stayed up late for
two nights to finish it. Couldn’t put it down.
So when I got home I reserved it in our library system. And read it
over Christmas week.
It’s the story of a Chinese-American family living in Ohio in the 1970s.
There are three children, Nathan, Lydia and Hannah. Nathan and
Lydia are teenagers, Hannah is younger. You already know that Lydia
has died, and it’s recently. The book unravels the threads holding this
family together and we are swept away reading page by page of what
went wrong, terribly wrong.
This is a debut novel by Celeste Ng–be careful, there is a very similar
title in the bestseller lists—look for the author’s name to get the right
Seldom do we think about the author though—and that’s the right
way to read something! She tells us about the family bit by bit–and
each line seems to hit just right.
From a description of Lydia’s last night: “Above her the moon was
coin-round, sharp and perfect.” Coin-round.
And one from young Hannah’s viewpoint: ” . . . Two cars in the driveway,
two rings of keys on the hall table. Five sets of shoes . . . These sums
bring her comfort.”
I can’t say much more about the book without spoiling it. But it’s the
kind of book you think about long after finishing it. You look around
and wonder about families you know—what is life like being a kid in
Piercing, unsettling. It would be interesting to compare it with The Glass
Castle by Jeannette Walls . . .