By Celeste Ng
Fascinating – in a voyeuristic sort of way. Ng transforms her readers into the proverbial “fly on the wall” and sets before them a multi-layered story about regular people living their regular lives, when something extraordinary begins to work its way into their midst. It felt a little bit like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I couldn’t look away. I hoped the best for the people inside, but I knew somebody was gonna get hurt.
It’s a domestic story about families, their interaction with each other, and their affect on the community at large. It’s about kids and how they are mothered, who they want to mother them, and what sort of people they become as a result.
The story is about motherhood and begs many excellent questions:
- At what point does one become a mother?
- Can any woman be a good mother?
- Does a bad mother deserve her children?
- Can a mother who seems to be amazing on the outside actually harm her children?
- Can a mother who appears to be “not great” actually teach everyone around her how to be a better mom?
- Who has the right to determine who gets to raise a particular child?
We see nurture versus nature versus snap decisions and the reader gets to decide whose fault everything is. The story is set in the Midwest (which brings it close to home for me). On the surface, it’s about a house that burns down. Below the surface, it’s about individuals and their choices which affect everyone in the community. It’s about the little fires we set, and when they are added together, they make one really big fire, and. . . well, I can’t ruin the whole metaphor . . . you need to read it yourself!
In fact, you can snag a copy right here. It would make for a great book club discussion. I almost want to start a book club, just to discuss this one. 4.5 stars.
Content: more cursing at the end. Some sex, but not detailed.