Everything I Never Told You; Celeste Ng
Penguin - 2014
(April Book Group Read) - This was a reread for me (audio both times) and, my opinion remains unchanged - I loved this book as did everyone in my book group even though it's a sad story. Here is my review from a few years ago----
"Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet." is how this story begins. As the Lee family sits together for breakfast mother, Marilyn, father, James, oldest child and brother Nathan, and youngest child, Hannah, Lydia is absent, but they expect Lydia to be down any minute. When she doesn't join them, they discover her bed has not been slept in and Lydia isn't around. It isn't until two days later that her body is discovered in a nearby lake. So what happened to sixteen year-old Lydia and why?
The year is 1977 and the Lee's live in a college town in Ohio. The father, James is a Chinese American and teaches History at the college in town, and his wife, Marilyn is a white stay at home mom. Lydia and her siblings are the only children in their school of Chinese descent, and have been the subject of taunts and slanted-eye gestures from some unkind classmates over the years. Both parents have different wants for their daughter Lydia, andthey pressure her in different ways to become what they what their daughter to be. Brother Nathan will be heading off to Harvard in the fall, and he believes a neighbor may have been involved in Lydia's disappearance and drowning.
The story is told in the third person, and from that we learn a great deal about the family background, a short separation of the parents, and the way the children handled that. And, although this story is certainly part mystery (what happened to Lydia -- murder, suicide or accidental drowning), it is much more a story about the Lee family dynamics and how that impacted not just Lydia, but the other two children as well. What happens when parents try to see their unrealized dreams materialize through their offspring?
The audio version was read by Cassandra Campbell and so well done. This is an impressive debut novel that will appeal to readers who enjoy well written stories about family dysfunction, while mystery fans might be a little disappointed.
The Dark Flood Rises; Margaret Drabble
Farrah, Straus & Giroux - 2017
(My Thoughts) - Fran Stubbs, 70 - something is still an active working woman, her job involves housing for the elderly, traveling to various locales and conferences keeping abreast of housing options for British seniors. Fran does, however, read the obits and can't help thinking about her own death and that of others she has known as she drives long distances for her job. Her best friend from childhood is terminally ill and her son's girlfriend died way too young. Drabble makes the topic of death and dying touching, entertaining and thought provoking at times as she talks about the way old age has a way of "thinning our emotions.". I loved the writing and the story, and, even though it meandered along at times, it was never boring or depressing. There was much about Drabble's writing that spoke to me and, I found myself highlighting various passages as I read. Highly recommended for readers of a certain age -- Drabble is a master at writing about aging and death. (4.5/5 stars)
The Hideaway; Lauren Denton
Thomas Nelson - 2017
(My Thoughts) - The Hideaway, a debut novel, was a nice light read with two story lines -- one storyline features Sara Jenkins who runs a popular antiques shop in New Orleans. The other story like is that of her grandmother, Margaret (Mags) Van Buren who ran a B& B in Sweet Bay, Alabama where Sara grew up. When Sara receives word that her grandmother has died she heads to The Hideaway and learns that she has been willed, B&B provided she refurbish it, as it had fallen into a state of disrepair. Sara agrees and is surprised by the emotions that are stirred from her childhood and even more surprised by what she learns about her grandmother while sorting through items she left behind. Although the story has been done before, it was still an enjoyable, easy read. I liked the quirky cast of characters and how the Mags story was slowly revealed. A nice choice for your summer reading list. (4/5 stars)