I was anticipating this book months before it was released because I loved her previous book Everything I Never Told You. This novel did not disappoint.
This novel takes place in Shaker Heights, Ohio an idyllic suburb of Cleveland in which the city’s motto is: “‘Most communities just happen; the best are planned’: the underlying philosophy that everything could-and should- be planned out, and that by doing so you could avoid the unseemly, the unpleasant, and the disastrous.”
Elena Richardson, the matriarch of The Richardson family embodies the spirit of the town herself and attempts to cultivate these values on her family. Mia Warren, a mysterious artist and single mom to a teenage daughter Pearl enters the town and rents a house from the Richardsons. Mia threatens to disrupt the perfection of this town with her unconventional values and distain for order.
Friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese American baby who is left in front of a fire station, however the birth mom Bebe comes forward in attempt to regain custody of the child. The town becomes divided over this custody battle, which also puts Elena and Mia on opposing sides of the debate.
“To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for existed at once.”
This novel addresses issues of privilege, race, teenage love, secrets kept, motherhood and the absurdity of attempting perfection. Though there have been many books written about suburban dysfunction, this one stands apart by tackling issues of privilege, class and racism as well as fully developing characters with gorgeous prose. Ng is a masterful storyteller. Do yourself a favor and read this book now.