I don't know how many of these I'll actually manage to read in December, but I have a Kindle folder for Christmas books that I'd like to read. There are more than are shown here, but the widget is moving slow and I can't be bothered.
Anyway, I think it's time for a re-read of Dickens and I'd like to try some others if I can find the time between my other reads.
This book was amazing. I was absolutely captivated the whole time.
Not often have I listened to a book that has prompted me turn up the speed as high as I can possibly stand it because I need to have it all absorbed NOW. This was one of those rare exceptions (seriously, it's maybe happened twice before and last time it was the finale to the Lunar Chronicles).
With a title like this, I knew the story was going to be a sad book about someone leaving some kind of way but I just couldn't help myself. I didn't even bother reading the synopsis, I had to know. I do have trigger type issues with stories about kids dying, but my ability to persist tends to depend on either the direct actions of the parents that contributed or ill or misrepresentative treatment of the mourning process. I didn't have to worry about that here.
The book did an amazing job of walking the reader through some of the different ways that people mourn, it is not about some easy recovery and people getting on with their lives after a family tragedy. The story itself is about the mourning and recovery process for each family member, wallowing in all the sticky and depressing parts, wallowing in the guilt. It walks us through their inner lives as they go through it all.
I won't try to defend all of their actions, people are reliably irrational during such times and do things that are out of character. Whether or not we can expect people to think or act rationally while dealing with death is questionable at best. In some stories it works, but those are usually stories where the remaining characters are still under whatever strain or stress that killed the first. This is not that kind of story. Everything was fine, or so the rest of the family thought.
Then they find out that Lydia had died. Due to the circumstances of her death, each family member, in their own way and time, has to take a look at the events leading up to her death and question their amount of fault or responsibility. The problem is that they only have questions. There can be no concrete answers for them. They have to come up with some answer that works for them and try their best to carry on. Part of the problem is that it isn't just about Lydia and her death. When something like this happens so unexpectedly, the remaining family members have no choice but to look at the family and the way that it works and realize that it doesn't work. It hadn't been working. But what could or should they do about it? But figuring that out would require the kind of rationality that isn't immediately available to a grieving family.
During the whole book, I had to wonder if this was going to be a story about a splintering or a family coming together. These things go both ways in life and in stories and Ng's treatment of her characters was realistic enough to make me wonder. I won't spoil it either. I'll just say that each of her characters are incredibly well rounded, even Lydia. We get to know plenty of options for each family member and I was satisfied with the way it did end.
The audiobook was read by Cassandra Campbell, who does an amazing job with it. I listened to the streaming version available through Amazon Channels on Audible. For me, the book satisfies Letter E for my Litsy A to Z Challenge.
Unless I read something world-shattering between now and December 31, this will be my book of the year. A high-octane literary tale of the highest order, Celeste Ng tackles heady topics like racism and classism and morality and societal rebellion in smart, tactful strikes.
Like the best literary fiction, this one unfurls slowly while keeping the reader totally engaged. I read this one in two sittings, my mouth agape and my hair on fire. More than once Ng pulled the rug out from under me; the characters she has created are ones the reader can root and mourn for. Several revelations here have the power to delight, shock, and upset.
A beautifully told tale about a wandering artist, her daughter, and the upscale family they become close with, this is an honest, heartbreaking look at motherhood and identity and suburbia. I am in awe of Celeste Ng — it’s that simple. And I will be picking up her debut novel posthaste. Highly recommended to all readers.
After the disappointment of Ng's debut I thought I'd skip this one. But there seemed to be a lot of hype and I got around to reading a general synopsis of how a suburb of Cleveland (where Ng grew up) that values its order and ways of doing things gets shaken up when new tenants move to the neighborhood and we are treated to a story of surrogacy, adoption, race, parenting and family and more. I decided that I'd try really hard to hold my expectations in check after being let down so hard after Ng's first book (which I strongly believe was badly mis-marketed). It seemed like the book would open up with a bang as Ng describes a house being set on fire and burning to a crisp (everyone survives). Well. What a way to start things off!
Initially it seemed interesting when we meet the Richardsons, a family with children who are about high school age dealing with what many suburban families do: the children nearing the ages of moving onto college, dealing with the new tenants of a house they inherited, and more. Of course, there are issues bubbling under the surface, drama just waiting to be unleashed. The order that Shaker Heights has known is about to be shattered in ways they couldn't expect.
Or something like that. Like with Ng's first book the premise just sounded so darned interesting. Since Ng is from the area it seemed like a fictional book based on her personal knowledge (and maybe even people or situations in her life) it seemed like the hype was warranted. Alas, it was not. The book is slow. I had a lot of trouble keeping the Richardson children straight. The big secrets and hidden pasts and chaos that comes to the surface wasn't compelling. There was very little that was interesting about the book's characters or storyline.
I feel bad because it sounded good and I appreciate what Ng has to say on Twitter (which is how I found out about her second book) and wanted to support her. But after these two attempts I'm not sure I'll be reading any of her future books ever again. Oh well. I borrowed it from the library and back it goes.