The best page-turner of the year! I remember seeing this book in every bookshop as a bestseller and my attention was immediately caught by the mysterious title and seemingly intriguing cover. The story unfolds in the family-friendly small city of Shaker Heights where artist Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl just settled in their new home rented by the wealthy Richardson family. The plot implicitly leads us to discover along the characters themselves the shattering and least expected family secrets as well as the highs and lows of a strong and heartfelt friendship. Celeste Ng thrives at capturing the often overlooked but nonetheless striking twists of the adoption process. Her gifted sense of meticulous investigation of social issues is also brought to light by the divide between the Richardsons and Mia when Pearl starts spending more and more time in their fancy and elaborate mansion. Little by Little, their two very different yet similarly puzzling worlds merge together as they develop relationships animated by envy for the Richardsons’ extravagant lifestyle or desire for the simplicity and minimalistic life of Mia and Pearl.
The title of the book refers to the start of the book when the Richardsons watch their house on fire and tearfully discuss the potential person guilty of the fire. No other details are given as the story continues with a flashback to the time Mia and Pearl arrived in Shaker Heights, gracefully building the suspense for the reader to investigate the signs and clues of the captivating mystery. I genuinely loved the characters Celeste Ng created: from their incredible realistic features to their very attaching complex personalities, I ended up forgetting many times that I was reading fiction.
Amongst the topics explored that I particularly enjoyed is the accurate analysis of the feeling of belonging. I found that the author truly managed to describe how Pearl craved a new sense of identity along the poignant longing of Izzy for recognition, acceptance and love as opposed to her mother’s neglect and continuous resentment for reasons she ignores. Besides, I found that the theme of motherhood being inextricably linked to that of morality was very interesting to display amidst the rollercoaster of messy family dynamics.
A true page-turner that I recommend 10/10!