Friday, February 28, 2020

Beginning ~ with Lydia dead

“Lydia is dead.  But they don’t know this yet.”

Everything I Never Told You ~ by Celeste Ng, 2014, fiction (Ohio), 8/10
This novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio begins with Lydia dead.  She is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue.  But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.  A moving story of family, secrets, and longing, this is a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
This is the February book for our Fourth Wednesday Book Club, which met a couple of days ago.  It's one of the most depressing books I've ever read, from Lydia's death (and wondering how she died) to the father and children constantly feeling the loathing people hurled at them because of the father's ancestry.
"An Oriental, she thought.  She had never seen one in person before" (p. 31).

"Every time you saw yourself from the outside, the way other people saw you, you remembered all over again.  You saw it in the sign at the Peking Express — a cartoon man with a coolie hat, slant eyes, buckteeth, and chopsticks.  You saw it in the little boys on the playground, stretching their eyes to slits with their fingers — ChineseJapaneselook at these — and in the older boys who muttered ching chong ching chong ching as they passed you on the street ... You saw it when waitresses and policemen and bus drivers spoke slowly to you, in simple words, as if you might not understand" (p. 193).
We all agreed it was depressing to read, but it did give us a lot to discuss in our book group.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts
Book Beginnings on Fridays.
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1 comment:

Athira said...

Yeah I believe almost every review I've read about this book said more or less the same thing - a beautiful book but also very very depressing. I rarely feel up to reading a depressing book. I don't mind accidentally discovering a depressing book while reading it but otherwise, I find it hard to read it.