books and reading

Little Fires Everywhere

I read Everything I Never Told You a couple of years ago and loved it. It’s not my usual type of book, namely about a family and depressing, but Ng’s writing is so beautiful, and I was so captivated by the characters that I couldn’t put it down. It was a heartbreaking book, but one that has stuck with me for a long time.

Again, this book focuses on family, this time three different families whose lives are woven together in unique ways. From Goodreads:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned–from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren–an enigmatic artist and single mother–who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood–and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Again, the characters and language of this book are Ng’s best work. The plots of her books are definitely interesting, but her character development and writing style are top notch. In my book, she’s two for two, and I look forward to her next one!

books and reading

Everything I Never Told You

For the 2018 book challenge, I need a book that is set in the decade I was born. I scrolled through a vast list of every book set in the 1970s and stumbled upon this one. I had it on my Kindle already and had heard so many great things about it. So I was really excited to get to this one, even though I had no idea what it was about.

And here we are with another family drama. The very first line in the book is Lydia is dead. Lydia being the teenage and middle child of James and Marilyn. James is Chinese, Marilyn is not. But they fall in love, get married, and have a family. Back in school, Marilyn dreamed of being a doctor, but when she gets pregnant, her dream is put on hold. Then comes another child (Lydia) and the dream gets further pushed away. Marilyn’s mother was a home economics teacher who preached day in and day out about keeping a good home, a good family, and a good husband, none of which Marilyn wants. So when she marries outside her race, her mother is so appalled that they never speak again.

Through a variety of situations, Marilyn decides to push Lydia the direction she, herself, was never allowed to go- to medicine. Marilyn makes sure Lydia has books, knowledge, and support to become the doctor she wants. Marilyn never stops to check what Lydia wants though. Such is being a parent. Parents want their child to be happy and successful, but not all are willing to let their child find his or her own path. How many parents push their kids into sports, or music, or drama, etc just because it is what they think is best, rather than what the child wants. Lydia is a victim of this very thing. So when she ends up dead, her parents are left wondering what happened and why.

This book broke my heart, in the best way possible, because it was so true. The microaggressions against Asians depicted in the book are still occurring today. The need for parents to push their children hasn’t changed. My kids are still young and want to be marine biologists, zookeepers, race car drivers, etc and that’s just fine with me.  But one of the most important things we can do is support, guide, and love our children without pushing them in the wrong direction. It’s a fine line, but one that must be negotiated carefully.