I read Ng’s second book five years ago and found this one to have the same strengths and weaknesses. It begins with a mystery. Lydia, a teenage girl, drowns in a lake one evening, apparently alone. Was it an accident? A murder? A suicide? But for the next 200 or so pages the author leaves that mystery alone and begins an overlong and plodding history of Lydia’s dysfunctional family. The theme is clearly people’s failure to tell others their true feelings and thoughts and how that can cause harm. The mystery is explained at the end and it’s a rather clever twist I didn’t foresee.
Before that, though, the author paints a depressing story of what she seems to be suggesting is racism toward Asians (although she uses the term Orientals in keeping with the custom of the times depicted). I grew up in the fifties and sixties, the time frame in that part of the book, and found it to be an inaccurate portrayal, displaying a rather whiny victim mentality. Just like with the other book, I nearly gave up on it halfway through, and, like the other one, was eventually glad I didn’t. Still, in the end it felt more like a completed school assignment than an enjoyable read.