The story deals with prejudice in the 1960’s all the way up to 1977. According to Celeste Ng, “at the time, of course, interracial marriages were both rare and stigmatized. Now, it’s getting to be much more common… but at the time, it would’ve been a much bigger deal.”
Each of the characters experienced discrimination of one sort or another, even Jack who had he come out of the closet would have dealt with prejudice and the ramifications of “being different” in a very homogeneous community. While they did all face it they each chose to deal with it in different ways. Who do you feel was able to adapt the best/least? Could James and Marilyn have made decisions that would have made their lives and the kids lives easier? After finding out that Lydia had died James thinks back on why he bought the house by the lake and wondered if he had chosen differently Lydia might not have died, were there decisions that were made earlier that made events inevitable? Where they inevitable?
Celeste Ng is the child of two parents of Chinese decent. Growing up in the ’90s she says “virtually all of the overtly racist things, large and small, in the book are things that either my family experienced of other Asian families that i knew experienced. Sadly, I didn’t really have to do much research on that at all.” Do you think it’s significant that Ng chose to set the book 20 years before she experienced racism as a teen, and wrote the novel 20 years (or so) after her teenage years? If so why?
I heard one comment that a reader thought that this novel felt more like a veiled memoir to her. She truly thought that, perhaps, this was just Ng telling her own story (albeit dramatized – she did not lose a family member to drowning.) What do you think?