December 16, 2015
So much to talk about - starting with that opening line "Lydia is dead." Nancy admitted that she almost gave up on the book right then. After all, she wondered how Ng might be able to keep the book interesting when she had already told us that Lydia was going to die.
A couple of people who hadn't finished talked about how sad the book was. Those of us who had finished warned them that it was going to get even sadder. Which is a trick considering that we already know that, in the end, a teenaged girl will be dead. But finding out how she died ends up being the saddest part of all.
We talked about the relationship between James and Marilyn and how their entire marriage was built on misconceptions and miscommunication. They both thought they were getting what they needed in the other but neither bothered to tell the other what it was that they needed. In fact, there was a lot they never bothered to tell each.
Lisa said she often would forget the time setting of the book and have to remind herself that the story takes place 40 years ago when things were much different for both minorities and women. This lead us on a discussion of Nancy's and Cheryl's own parent's recollections on racial issues after the WWII, the time James would have grown up in. We also talked about what it would have been like for Marilyn but Lisa pointed out that it surprised her that Marilyn didn't push to go back to school given that it was so important to her not to be nothing more than a housewife. Even given her desperation not to end up like her mother, we couldn't imagine walking away from our families just to make our own dreams come true.
Poor Hannah - we felt so sorry for her. Nancy talked about how hard it was to read about her tucking herself under the table so she could be near but no one noticing her. She was invisible. But she wasn't the only child to feel sorry for: Lydia who made a promise to always say "yes" to anything her mother ever asked even though it meant her entire life was built on a lie; Nath who was such a disappointment to his father for being exactly like his father. James lived with the guilt of doing that but Marilyn never even knew what she was doing to her daughter until it was too late.
Ladies - want to hop in and talk more about the book? Just leave an comment below (you just sign in as anonymous). What are your thoughts on the differences or similarities between Marilyn and her mother as both a wife and a parent? What about the misunderstanding between Jack and Nath at the pool that ended up coloring Nath's opinion of Jack for the next ten years? Do you think the experience of today's Muslims echoes this family's experience in their neighborhood?