Family Dynamics: Debuts in Domestic Struggles.
Booklist Reviews 2014 May #2
*Starred Review* A teenage girl goes missing and is later found to have drowned in a nearby lake, and suddenly a once tight-knit family unravels in unexpected ways. As the daughter of a college professor and his stay-at-home wife in a small Ohio town in the 1970s, Lydia Lee is already unwittingly part of the greater societal changes going on all around her. But Lydia suffers from pressure that has nothing to do with tuning out and turning on. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. Her mother is white, and their interracial marriage raises eyebrows and some intrusive charges of miscegenation. More troubling, however, is her mother's frustration at having given up medical school for motherhood, and how she blindly and selfishly insists that Lydia follow her road not taken. The cracks in Lydia's perfect-daughter foundation grow slowly but erupt suddenly and tragically, and her death threatens to destroy her parents and deeply scar her siblings. Tantalizingly thrilling, Ng's emotionally complex debut novel captures the tension between cultures and generations with the deft touch of a seasoned writer. Ng will be one to watch. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2014 May #1
Ng's debut is one of those aching stories about which the reader knows so much more than any of the characters, even as each yearns for the unknowable truth. "Lydia is dead," the novel opens—blunt, unnerving, devastating. She's only 16, the middle of three children of James and Marilyn Lee, a mixed-race couple married years before the ironically named Loving v. Virginia finally invalidated U.S. antimiscegenation laws in 1967. They're initially drawn together by their differences: James, the American-born son of Chinese immigrants, finishing his Harvard PhD; Marilyn, the only Radcliffe undergraduate determined to become a doctor, a gifted scientist among unbelieving men. When they bury their daughter in 1977, the Lee family—already fragile before the tragedy—implodes. James detaches, Marilyn seeks refuge, brother Nath blames, and youngest Hannah silently watches all. Each will search for a Lydia who doesn't exist, desperate to parse what happened. VERDICT Ng constructs a mesmerizing narrative that shrinks enormous issues of race, prejudice, identity, and gender into the miniaturist dynamics of a single family. A breathtaking triumph, reminiscent of prophetic debuts by Ha Jin, Chang-rae Lee, and Chimamanda Adichie, whose first titles matured into spectacular, continuing literary legacies. [See Prepub Alert, 12/16/13.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC[Page 69]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
LJ Reviews 2014 January #1
In 1970s Ohio, blue-eyed Marilyn wants daughter Lydia to become a doctor, while Lydia's father, Chinese American James Lee, wants her to be popular. Now she's at the bottom of a lake. Ng won the prestigious Hopwood Award from the University of Michigan's writing program, so look out.[Page 68]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 2014 April #2
This emotionally involving debut novel explores themes of belonging using the story of the death of a teenage girl, Lydia, from a mixed-race family in 1970s Ohio. Lydia is the middle and favorite child of Marilyn Walker, a white Virginian, and James Lee, a first-generation Chinese-American. Marilyn and James meet in 1957, when she is a premed at Radcliffe and he, a graduate student, is teaching one of her classes. The two fall in love and marry, over the objections of Marilyn's mother, whose comment on their interracial relationship is succinct: "It's not right." Marilyn gets pregnant and gives up her dream of becoming a doctor, devoting her life instead to raising Lydia and the couple's other two children, Nathan and Hannah. Then Marilyn abruptly moves out of their suburban Ohio home to go back to school, only to return before long. When Lydia is discovered dead in a nearby lake, the family begins to fall apart. As the police try to decipher the mystery of Lydia's death, her family realize that they didn't know her at all. Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliché. Ng's prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (July)[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC