It starts at the end – with the house burning down, and a quick look at what’s going on in the town which seems to involve some kerfuffle with an American family adopting a Chinese baby. And then the story goes back a year or so to show us the lives of the families involved: one seems to be the stereotypical successful all-American family with a child each year of high school, the other is a nomadic unit with a single mother and her daughter. But it’s obvious from the beginning that neither of them is really a stereotype, I thought Ng’s characterisation and eye for details was great. I only had a couple of minor complaints. The setting is the mid-90s, which makes sense when it dives further back into the past, but, to me at least, the mid-90s world is enough like the present day that the occasional period details sometimes seemed jarring. And I felt some of the male characters got short shrift and were a bit more hackneyed than the females, but since that’s the opposite of the usual complaint I can live with it, besides it wasn’t all of them.
The book has a slow start once we go back to the beginning of the story, deliberately I’d assume so that we see the slow build up of tensions in the community, then it really gets going half way through. But all in all it was a very enjoyable and well plotted read, I liked the way the threads of the story intertwined and reflected each other. Hmm, reflecting threads? Well even though I can’t keep an analogy straight for a single sentence I can tell that Celeste Ng can craft a fine tale and I’d like to read more.
More information about this book can be found on goodreads.