Wow. I felt like I was reading this novel a little too slowly at first, but realized I was just poring over each extremely detailed and picturesque word that consumed me into the world of those living in Shaker Heights. Celeste Ng is a pro at writing with such intensity and depth, it was difficult to put this book down until I finished it in the late hours of the night.
I loved Izzy, who had a fire and passion so strong at just fifteen years old, but who also saw more deeply into people’s characteristics and idiosyncrasies. She’s viewed as difficult and hot-tempered by her family, yet ingenious and valued by Mia, who has her own stubborn yet artistic flair about her. Mia’s projects are frenzied yet focused with her wild ways of achieving satisfaction over her work. She dislikes portraits since she prefers showing how she sees others versus how they want to be seen (this reminded me of our selfie and photoshopped generation as of now). I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her crazy antics to achieve the perfect piece of artwork.
Elena Richardson seems easy to dislike and pose as the villain of the story, but you can also empathize with her type A and overtly meticulous planning style. The controversy over Bebe and Mrs. McCullough can be debatable over a myriad of arguments-but I appreciated how Celeste Ng brought up how Asians are racially categorized and viewed (including examples of The Five Chinese Brothers book and the “Oriental Barbie,” both of which existed in real life).
Overall, the conception of setting fires to the past and being able to move on no matter the hardships and setbacks one faces is an idea to ponder over and embrace. Perhaps that is the beauty in the notion of second chances and starting over.