by Celeste Ng
I selected this book after reading about it on #reesebookclub, an instagram page.
For me this book was about people: their beliefs, their values, their way of life. How your past shapes your present and future. How a thought can manifest into actions which culminates into an entire lifestyle.
It begins with the burning down of a house belonging to the very respected family of Richardson. Located in Shaker Heights, the fires rising up in the sky reflected the turmoil that ensued in Shaker in the past few months.
Shaker Heights was a community build upon rules, order and system. And, its residents were expected to live in the same way. Elena (Mrs.) Richardson was a staunch believer in this lifestyle. Married to Bill (Mr.) Richardson and mother of four (Lexi, Trip, Moody, and Izzy) she is a journalist working for the local newspaper. Elena is content in her life, everything she has today she planned for it longtime back. Settling down in shaker, marrying an ideal guy, and having beautiful kids, she had it all.
When she rents her apartment on Winslow street in Shaker to Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl, things change. Mia resonates a passion, a disregard for an orderly life which irks Elena. It rekindles a passion that maybe Elena had when she was younger but which got subdued due to the life that she chose for herself.
Mia is an artist; a photographer who converts her pictures into art. She lives a nomadic life moving from one place to another with her daughter Pearl.
Things heat up between Mia and Elena when they find themselves on the opposites sides of a custody battle. Both fight for their friend and also for what they believe is true and just. Determined to shake down Mia and find out her truth, Elena pursues an investigation in to Mia’s past. These investigations intrigued me as well as Mia’s character is an enigma, and as a reader you want to know what’s her story.
Meanwhile Elena’s youngest, Izzy, develops a strong attachment to Mia. With Mia, Izzy finds herself happy and content, and she admires her a lot. So much so that when Mia and Pearl are forced to leave Shaker, she takes the drastic step of burning down her house. I thought for Izzy this was a way leaving behind everything that she resented.
The side story of a love triangle between Pearl, Trip, and Moody is very engaging. The custody battle also has its moments; the emotions that the birth and the adoptive mother go through are very touching and the battle has its own climax.
Celeste Ng has written very beautifully with well developed characters and subtle hints of mystery here and there. I would definitely recommend this book!