by Celeste Ng, 2017
I loved Everything I Never Told You, so I was supremely excited to get my hands on Celeste Ng’s second novel. Like her debut, Little Fires Everywhere focuses on suburban life, both the promise that it holds and the prison that it can become. Elena Richardson has a seemingly idyllic life with her husband Bill in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Bill is a successful attorney, Elena is a respected local journalist, and their four high school-aged children – Lexie, Trip, Moody, and Izzy – complete this portrait of a perfect American family. Well, except for Izzy who, at the beginning of the novel, has set fires in each of the bedrooms of the Richardson home. Izzy has always been Mrs. Richardson’s greatest struggle and she will be her ultimate undoing.
by Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2015
Man, I really wanted to enjoy this book. There is a certain disappointment in picking up a much lauded book only to find yourself struggling through it every step of the way. In this case, I wasn’t necessarily disappointed in the book – I was disappointed in myself. I’m certain The Sympathizer contains a fair amount of genius within its pages, but, either because I did not have sufficient background knowledge of the Vietnam War, thus exposing my own ignorance, or because I could not follow the stream-of-consciousness narrative, calling into question my English Master’s degree, I clawed my way through every page. You guys…this book made me feel dumb.
by Jade Chang, 2016
It’s the start of the economic recession and Charles Wang – a Chinese immigrant who made his fortune in the cosmetics industry – is bankrupt. Having put all his collateral, including his house, toward a loan for a failed attempt at beauty stores that cater to non-white customers, Charles is determined to save face by reclaiming the land stolen from his family by the communist Chinese government. He picks up his daughter from boarding school, his son from college, and, along with his second wife, they head toward the eldest Wang daughter’s New York farmhouse in search of something like redemption.