Last Great Book I Read

This!  Easily my top pick for 2017 undoubtedly one of top 5 favorite books ever, a title I don't give lightly.  Celeste Ng is a masterful storyteller.  This is a story of three families dwelling in the idyllic suburb of Cleveland, Shaker Heights.  The town is beloved for its preplanned nature; carefully mapped neighborhoods, orchestrated to be functional while aesthetically pleasing, even down to the paint color.  Hand in hand with its predictability is the perfect parks, friendly businesses, and foundational schools, which aim to produce a consistent output of successful future residents.

Embodying this spirit more than anyone is Elena Richardson, mother of four children, whose virtue is playing by the rules, her family a postcard of Leave it to Beaver perfection. Enter Mia and Pearl Warren, new tenants of the Richardsons whose single-mother status alone flags the antithesis of Shaker Heights convention.  Mia is a gifted artist with a mysterious past and Pearl, her kind, intelligent teenage daughter is drawn to the perfection that the Richardsons exude, having never lived a life as stable as they.  Then there's the McCulloughs, dear friends of the Richardsons who endeavor to adopt a Chinese-American baby, when a custody battle ensues, pitting Mia and Elena against on opposite sides. It's hard to elaborate much more without giving away significant plot lines, so I'll leave it at that...

However, may I say,  Celeste Ng is a truly gifted writer.  Her characters are cultivated with such depth and intimacy, their stories woven together into an immense, intricate, complicated fabric... I was so sad for this book to end.  One of those books you want to reread and wish it anew, just to experience the story again for the first time. 

I'll leave you with this quote, which resonated with me so soundly, I found myself rereading it over and over again, wondering how she was able to capture such a feeling in words.

“To a parent, your child wasn’t just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all existed at once.  You could see it every time you looked at her: layered in her face was the baby she’d been and the child she’d become and the adult she would grow up to be, and you saw them all simultaneously like a 3-D image.  It made your head spin.  It was a place you could take refuge, if you knew how to get in.  And each time you left it, each time your child passed out of your sight, you feared you might never be able to return to that place again."
p. 122



Mary said...

I'm reading this now. I'm about halfway through and know I'll be sad when I'm done.

Have you read Homegoing? That was probably my favorite of last year, along with Lincoln in the Bardo. Both very different but magnificent.

Michelle said...

Mary I haven't, but thanks for the recs, I've heard of Lincoln in the Bardo, but not the other one.