It’s the 1970s, in a small Ohio town. The Lee family’s daughter, Lydia, is dead.
Lydia, the oldest daughter of Marilyn and James Lee, a mixed-race Chinese-Caucasian couple.
As their ostensibly favorite child, her parents have placed pressure on her so they can live
vicariously through what they missed out on. Marilyn wants Lydia to achieve her dreams of
becoming a doctor, however much pressure it will take. James doesn’t want Lydia to experience
the childhood he did, constantly excluded from everything, so he pressures her to be popular. He
knows what it’s like to be different and doesn’t want that for his daughter. And Lydia herself
can’t refuse her parents, not after THAT summer.
However, her parents’ favoritism comes at the expense of their other kids.
Nath, Lydia’s older brother, has spent his entire life with the spotlight away from him, and can’t
wait to be free and go to college. Being Lydia’s only support system, he’s unaware of the
important role he plays in her life. But resentment against everyone is building up too quickly for
him to bear staying in this home for longer.
Hannah, meanwhile, is the youngest daughter. The one keeping everyone together, but also the
one everyone seems to forget about. However, her keen eye makes her the most emotionally
This family drama highlights the conditions in the family before and after Lydia’s death, as each
member grapples with what they did wrong and what they could’ve done. The family dynamics
and relationships (James-Marilyn, Lydia-Marilyn, Lydia-Nath, and Nath-James) were also so
well written. Ng has a way of writing her characters, that, while you may not agree with them
and their decisions, you can sympathize with them. Her prose is gifted and I love how this book
tackles the family’s battles with racism, sexism, and the American Dream. I also like how she
wrote out James’ and Marilyn’s backstories, because that just added to her characters so much
more. This was such an emotional and profound story, and I recommend it to everyone. 5/5.