Author: Celeste Ng
Genre: Literary Fiction
Trigger Warnings: abortion, abandonment by a parent
The book starts with a bang where the Richardsons stand outside their house as they witness it turning into ashes. The only one missing from the scene is the youngest daughter, Izzy, who they suspect to the culprit behind the fire.
The story flashes back to when Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and a single mother – who arrives with her teenaged daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants as their lives get entangled with the Richardsons’.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.
What I Liked About the Book
I really loved that this book deals with so many topics related to motherhood and pregnancy, specifically abortion, adoption, surrogacy. It explores the feelings that each mother has to go through, sometimes with giving up their kid, other times raising a kid while having no means to provide for her.
This book was a strong character study for all the characters present, taking you through a rollercoaster of emotions. I immediately felt so invested in knowing about how each person grew up and made choices that shaped their personality and life. On one hand we see how Elena Richardson and Mia Wright were raised in polar opposite households and circumstances and on the other hand, we see Pearl fitting into to the Richardsons’ lifestyle and Izzy in Mia’s.
Even the court case regarding the adoption was so thought provoking and gave such elaborate reasons and justifications for why the baby deserved to be raised by her biological parent or the adopted parents. Even though I believed that the baby belonged to the biological parents, the debate pursued by the media really made me consider several points that I hadn’t thought about. Reading about the adopted parents’ narrative also made me empathize and understand their situation more.
There was this particular scene/part of the book (Ch 16) where a paragraph would be written about how the baby was treated or what it underwent while living with her biological mother, and in brackets there would be another paragraph explaining the circumstances of the mother which caused the situation. It was such a strong and powerful message that every story has two sides and that what meets the eye is not the complete truth.
Another thing I appreciated about this book was it was full of strong female characters. Apart from Tripp and Moody, I don’t think there were any other male characters that were given much importance as compared to the females. Along with focusing on females, there was also such diversity in the characters ranging from different class, age groups and race.
In my opinion, ultimately when you read a book, you expect to learn something from it, think about stuff that you wouldn’t have otherwise. This book certainly does that to you once you finish it. I guarantee that you will not be able to stop thinking about the story or the characters after finishing the book.
What I Disliked About the Book
I am happy to say that I have nothing bad to say about the book although I wish I knew what happened to the characters after the book ends.
Recommended for anyone who:
- wants a court case drama
- wants an easy but thought provoking read
- is looking for a book related to motherhood
Other famous works by the author:
- Everything I Never Told You