There was a death, and then there was the reveal. But it is more than that. Little by little, as the details became known, we find out that everything, no matter how mundane or trivial, turned out to matter, a lot.
The book is a page-tuner. It was called a “literary thriller”, and it makes sense. On one hand, a death is at the center of the story. To get to the bottom of it, the reader goes through many small mysteries to piece together the entire story spanning decades and generations. On the other hand, despite much suspense and twists, the book deals with much larger and heavier (literary) themes: race, identity, image, gender, family, individual, infidelity, love, etc. Apparently, much of the tension of the story was built around the Lees being a mixed-race family – tensions within the family and with the outside world. However, it is does not do the book justice to just call it a book about race. There is much more going on. Also the author is very technical: contrasts, juxtaposition, different point of views, alternating timelines, etc. It is a thrill to read.
The reason I like this book THIS MUCH is it personally resonates. Yeah, it is that Asian thing, but from a different angle. As a first-generation Asian immigrant myself, this book just resonates. Family relationship are like icebergs. For every 10% above the surface, there are 90% that are underwater. This is probably 10X so for Asian families, as almost all the maneuvers, collisions, hits and misses, happen underneath. Most of the times, there is not even an echo to be heard, and the tips never get a chance to even touch each other.
In the end I feel myself confounded by the author with some questions. Why don’t we talk about things? Is it because we don’t know how to speak, or we don’t know how to listen, or we don’t even have the same language? Can we really talk without talking? Does silence say what you really want to hear, or what I really want to say but not want you to hear? What do we have lose when we actually start to talk about things?
I don’t know the answers.